Everyone was looking forward to what she had to say. She never used fancy terms like “strategic focus” or “core competencies” or “overarching strategic themes”. She just said things in plain English. You could relate to what she was saying because you could understand it.
“Good morning, everybody! And welcome to all of you who are new to us” she said, in a confident voice loud enough for everyone to hear.
“I have a really small role this morning. I am going to explain the way we look at strategy. To do that, I am going to use just one slide." she said, pointing to the image projected onto the screen.
You can see 8 strategies organized into 3 types of strategy.
This is our strategy system.
I know this probably sounds odd to those of you who come from companies where strategy is considered to be a value proposition or something only the CEO does. We don't think that way. For us, strategy is a choice of action, these 8 are the starting place for all strategy, and we all have a role to play in its implementation.
My job, as President of the company, working with my board of directors, is to manage these 8 long term strategies. Your job is to manage your assigned short and medium term strategies coming from the 8.
You can see from the slide that our our Alpha is growth. Alpha is the dominant strategy of the organization. We have spent the last 15 years buying companies and adding them to our family. Growth has become entrenched as our dominant strategy and culture. We have all learned to manage and cope with growth.
The next category of strategies are called Influencers. They are the 3 strategies that most guide implementation of the growth strategy and the third category, the Enablers.
Our Influencers are financial management, business definition, and risk. Here’s why.
Financial Management is one of the Influencers because we have been listed for over 15 years on the capital markets. Access to capital and the confidence those markets have in us has been essential to our growth strategy. How we manage the sourcing, allocation, and overall management of capital and our revenues is critical to maintaining that access and confidence.
The focus on our business definition strategy has been driven by the need to know at all times exactly what we were prepared to buy and how it will fit into our company. The last thing we need to do is to buy a company that is offside with our chosen business definition strategy.
By the way, now you can see how we came up with our vision, To be a Top Ten Global Design Firm. Vision is a description of the outcome of successful pursuit of Alpha, the dominant strategy. In our case, dominant strategy is growth, but it is deeply influenced by our business definition strategy to be a design firm. You can see both strategies at work in our vision.
The third Influencer is our risk strategy. We have managed it to guide us though the ongoing challenges of being a high growth company. A lot of our risk focus is on legal and regulatory issues. And as a professional services firm, we use insurance to mitigate the risk of professional liability for errors and ommissions.
The 4 remaining strategies are our Enablers. They are our people, being the organization management strategy; R&D/technology; marketing/sales; and service delivery.
I know at first some of you will be thinking of those strategies as the ‘back row’ but you need to understand that our 8 strategy system works like a car engine. One cylinder misfires and we have a serious problem with engine performance. Also, 90% of the company’s employees live in that back row!
A big advantage to looking at our strategy this way is that you can now see which strategy houses your job. If I draw a red circle around the strategies managed by the corporate group and a blue circle around those that are the responsibilities of the operating units, you can see how we have developed the organization structure for the company.
All of us in this room are in the corporate group. We are responsible for the growth, business definition, risk, financial management, organization management, and R&D/technology strategies. So your job will reside in one of those strategies.
Our operating units are responsible for service delivery and marketing/sales.
It made sense to organize this way given we have bought some 150 companies in the last 15 years. We wanted the owners of our many acquisitions to focus on continuing to market and sell services in the markets and to the customers they know. And we want them to continue to deliver their excellent services.
What we have done for our acquisition owners is relieve them from the pressures of the other six strategies so that they can do what they do best: grow their existing businesses by delivering great services.
This completes my presentation. I am now going to have my team take us all through the details of the strategies within each of the 8 and the expectations we have developed to drive their implementation. Before we start that, I would be pleased to answer any questions any of you might have on our strategy system."
For more on The Alpha Strategies to improve your strategy communication needs, see:Drag’n’Drop Strategy