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Developing actionable strategy

A great strategy does not assure marketplace success unless it is accompanied by a clear action plan which can be communicated and ...

By Richard Moat and Andreas Birnik . 01 March 2008

A great strategy does not assure marketplace success unless it is accompanied by a clear action plan which can be communicated and implemented throughout the company.
Developing actionable strategyAndreas Birnik and Richard Moat believe that it’s critical to have everyone involved in managing strategy reading off the same page. Literally.


How many businesses slip or fall even though they had a great strategy? In other words, how much business potential has been lost because business leaders fail to convert a good strategy into productive actions?

Our sense is that the number is embarrassingly high. Developing a relevant and actionable strategy is a key challenge for most management teams. Success never comes easily, as most people running a business know all too well. Instead, it is rather common to hear managers talk about “paralysis through analysis” – so much time spent developing (or understanding) a new strategy that implementing it is either an afterthought or the execution effort is either sloppy, half-hearted, or off target. We’ve heard managers attest to such business sins too often to count. Comments of this nature indicate that there is still scope for innovation in the strategy field to provide frameworks and tools that can help practitioners develop strategy that really matters to their organizations. More than that, we feel that what is most needed is a structured process aimed at capturing key strategic insights and condensing the business strategy into an actionable one-page summary: if you will, into a “strategy grid”.


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Our creation of a strategy grid to help managers execute their strategy comes from real-life experience. Our proposed approach is the result of five years of experimentation with a range of different strategy frameworks and tools, developed while working for Orange subsidiaries of France Telecom in Denmark, Romania and Sweden. During this time, we were exposed to the fads and fashions of strategy as a result of our own reading and interaction with consultants and colleagues. As a consequence, when involved in planning and executing a strategy, we have used strengths- weaknesses-opportunities-threats (SWOT) analysis to create a snapshot of our situation. We have also held off-site workshops around scenario planning to understand how our environment is evolving. We have carefully analyzed our market positioning. We have assessed our valuable resources and capabilities. We have drawn up detailed strategic plans to try to ensure linkages between strategy formulation and implementation. We have created companywide road shows to communicate and embed the strategy. And we share all this now because we want you to know that we truly have “been there” when it comes to all the latest fads in strategy development.

However, despite the use of a variety of different strategy approaches, we often found it challenging to convert the elegance of strategy formulation into a relevant and actionable set of initiatives and options.

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