Strategy is the backbone of any successful impact-focused organisation. Often when we are brought in to work with an organisation on a problem, we find the root cause of their problem lies within their strategy. When we ask to view their strategy it is common to be presented with a tactical action plan, or a set of important numerical stretch goals, or even worse, no strategy at all except to do better than last year.
Some of the symptoms of not having an effective strategy are poor performance outcomes across key metrics, poor decision making, no prioritisation, an over-emphasis on the day to day detail with no forward planning, an internally competitive culture that rewards the wrong things, or a board/committee/leadership team that can't get anything done because they can't make decisions.
A good strategy whilst not a silver bullet gives an organisation direction, helps it play to its strengths and provides the best chance of meeting its objectives within its means. An analogy we like to use is, let's say you live in Melbourne and you want to go on a family holiday to the Gold Coast (pre-covid obviously). Creating a strategy would be to consider what information you have about the members of your family, your budget, the vacation time you have to spend, transport options etc. With this information, you can make the best decision on what mode of transport to take and when to go, so that you meet all of your objectives of the holiday.
Using the same analogy, not having a strategy could lead you to have each member of the family book their own way there, some might fly, some might catch the bus, someone might even decide to hitchhike. All of these approaches will probably get your family to the Gold Coast, but are they all the most effective way to get there? Do they meet the other needs the family has like maximising the limited vacation time and making it up there at the same time for a special event? Probably not. Not taking some time to go through this thinking process, means that any of those ideas could be taken. Not having a clear strategy for your organisation is the same as the latter approach. It is inefficient and there is no clear path to achieving your objectives.
Leading a large group of people to meet a common goal is a tough task. Developing a clear strategy where your people are involved in the creation and execution of the strategy, makes your job much easier. You can have all the top talent in the sector or industry, that are aligned to your cause, but if you cannot guide them towards achieving your objectives, then you most probably won't achieve your goals.