This should come as no surprise. After all, anything can be summarized. It's just a question of understanding the key points that need to be captured. That's where it gets confusing for a lot of folks.
Common sense and conventional thinking say that if there is no written strategic plan for the business or nonprofit, then a summary of it cannot be prepared. This, of course, turns the summarizing assignment into the need to prepare a strategic plan; which we argue is absolutely not the case in our Post: Need a Strategic Plan? Relax. You Already Have One!
If there is a written strategic plan, usually what gets summarized is a collection of buzz words and metrics that leave the employees scratching their heads wondering what the summary means and how it impacts them.
We have a better way.
Consider the strategic plan a review of current strategy
Don't look at the strategic plan as a planning process. That's how the strategic plan is treated by all the experts and academics; as something you don't have and you need to prepare.
Well, here's the thing. Your organization is implementing strategies right now. The question should be "What are they?"
Preparing a one page summary of those strategies is an excellent way to understand what your current strategic plan is; that is, what your current strategies are.
To get started, you need to see strategy as a choice of action and a system. Our research tells us 8 strategies are common to every business, whether it is for-profit or nonprofit.
The strategic plan should be a description of what is being implemented within those 8 strategies. The descriptions are of current strategy. In other words, the current strategic plan is being summarized.
If you already have a strategic plan, try using this 8 strategy approach to summarize it. We can guarantee you that your present plan probably addresses 4 or maybe five of the 8 strategies. This should leave you wondering about what is planned for those strategies not mentioned in the strategic plan!
Understanding the current strategic plan is the starting point for strategic planning. If current strategies are not understood, how can the strengths and weaknesses of any particular strategy be assessed aginst the impact of external factors? Without understanding current strategy, it is not possible to explain the rationale for changing strategy or even improving it.
Summarize your strategic plan using the 8 strategy framework
The 8 strategies are business definition, risk, growth, financial management, R&D/technology, organization management, marketing/sales, and service delivery.
None of the "strategies" should seem new to you. They are the basis of all organization design. They form the curriculum of subjects taught at every business school. They are the basic topics that every board of directors discusses.
6 of the 8 were identified in the first book ever written on modern business strategy, Henri Fayol's General and Industrial Management, 1916. Peter Drucker identified the other two in The Practice of Management, 1954.
For nonprofits and government companies and agencies, business definition is called "mandate" while marketing/sales is usually known as “communications”.
The service delivery strategy is also known as production or manufacturing, depending on what the organization does.
Answer the questions each of the 8 strategies raise
By answering the questions raised within each of the 8 strategies. you can prepare a one page summary of your current strategic plan.
The Eight Strategies Common to Every Organization
Business Definition (called Mandate in nonprofits): What is a succinct description of the business/nonprofit and how it is positioned in the competitive environment relative to similar businesses/nonprofit?. If your company has audited financial statements you'll find this strategy described in the notes to those statements.
Financial Management: How does the business/nonprofit source, allocate, and manage its capital and how does it manage its revenues and expenses?
Risk: How are the risks faced by the business/nonprofit identified managed? Most folks think risk is something that can be insured; an assumption that needs to be regularly tested.
Marketing/Sales/Communications: ("marketing/sales" is thought of as “communications” in many nonprofits): For marketing; The basic questions are the 4p's of marketing, being product, price, promotion, and place. How is the product/services offering determined? How is it priced and what's included in the price? How is it advertised and promoted? How is it sold to a purchaser/client ? (i.e. directly or indirectly through someone else?) For sales: How are potential customers/clients identified; approached, and pitched? For communications, how are major stakeholders identified and managed?
Growth: How is growth managed? (e.g. Is it internal through a growing demand for products and services? Or is it externally driven through acquisitions, partnerships, joint ventures, etc.)
Organization Management: How are the human resource needs sourced, allocated, and managed. (Note: The 8 strategies are also the basis of all organization design. In other words, by looking at the people needs through a strategy perspective, you may have new insights. For example, many businesses lose sight of how much of their business is "outsourced" or in the hands of vendors and contractors.)
R&D/Technology: How is R&D managed? How is technology used?
Service Delivery/Manufacturing/Production: How are products/services produced?
Present your summary as a strategy system
As a last step in preparing the one page summary of your strategic plan, you should consider identifying how the 8 strategies are organized into a strategy system.
It has been known for some time that strategy organizes around a lead or dominant strategy. We took this known concept one step further. Our research found that there are 3 types of strategy in the strategy system of any organization.
Influencers are the three strategies that most guide and constrain the implementation of the Alpha and the third category of strategies, the Enablers, being the remaining four strategies.
Bundling the 3 concepts above produces a model to see strategy. Seeing Strategy: Strategy as a System
Now that you have spent time thinking about and documenting descriptions of what is being implemented within each of the 8 strategies, you can build a map of your strategy system.
The trick is to identify the Alpha or dominant strategy first. This is the one strategy that gives your organization its culture.
For example, retailers will usually have marketing/sales as Alpha. Regulators and insurers will have risk as dominant strategy. Many hospitals, but not all, have service delivery as Alpha while others will have R&D/technololgy as theirs. Many nonprofits think at first that "mandate" is their Alpha but quickly realize it is not. This is because the mandate clearly identifies and describes the dominant strategy.
Next, identify the Influencers. These are the three strategies most critical to guiding or constraining implementation of the Alpha and remaining four, the Enablers.
What you have now is a map that allows you to present the one page summary in order of strategic priorities. That's right. The map shows the strategies in order of their importance to the organization. Your employees can see where they fit into the map. But remember, the 8 strategy system works like a V8 engine. If any of the strategies is not performing well, it will impair the performance of the other 7. The issue is not "My job is in the third row as an Enabler. I thought we were more important than that!" Performance of each of the 8 is critical to proper functioning of the system as a whole.
The map also provides the framework for telling a great story of your organization's strategy. You may even want to use our online, dynamic strategy modeling site as the means to present your summary.
Now you have your strategic plan on one page and the makings of a great way to communicate it.
For more on strategy, read The Alpha Strategies: Understanding Strategy, Risk, and Values in Any Organization