Every business, textbook and strategy consultant can parrot the truism that the development of a strategy is crucial to organisational success. They’re not so quick to tell you that a great looking document won’t achieve the job alone and is just one element of delivering a strategy.
We’ve been helping the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) face these challenges as part of an ongoing transformation – helping its drive towards becoming a better business, providing a better service to deliver a better estate for Defence.
The DIO spends £3.3 billion annually and is responsible for the stewardship of the Defence Estate, including over 1000 UK sites and some international sites, as well as enabling the UK’s armed forces to live, work, train and deploy on operations to keep the UK and allied nations safe.
Building the strategy for the whole organisation
When developing the DIO’s strategy, we helped articulate answers to four key questions: why do we need to change? What do we need to change? What do we want to achieve? How will we achieve it? These give people the case for change, demonstrate the areas that need to be improved, set out the vision, and drive progress from ambition to actions, respectively.
Engagement from across the organisation was central to answering these questions. By conducting interviews with stakeholder groups and individuals from different departments we were able to get a view of priorities in different areas and bring these together into a single consolidated view.
This meant we developed a strategy with the DIO team that reflected the thoughts of not just the top executives but the business as a whole. It was a constant consideration that the strategy should be as relevant to a junior engineer in Glasgow as it is to the Chief Executive in London. But agreeing the strategy was the easy part.
The most difficult element comes once a strategy is written – delivering against it. Central to this are two core components, diametrically opposite in nature but equally important: people and information.
A living strategy that is part of working life
Organisations only exist because of their people, so aligning organisational goals with your workforce is crucial to ensuring a strategy can be effectively realised. There are a huge variety of ways to develop and improve culture within an organisation, but a few that were particularly important when embedding and delivering the DIO’s strategy included:
The important thing about each of these interventions is they’re each about making the organisation’s strategy a part of everyday activities; the more an individual can identify and align with the goals of the organisation, the higher the likelihood of being happier, more successful and more effective in their work.
A data driven approach to reporting and accountability of key strategic objectives
The second element that supports an effective strategy is the use of information. The key principle we were looking to achieve at the DIO was to get the right information into the right people’s hands at the right times.
As such, the DIO revamped how they look at data internally (and not just for customers), re-structured boards and committees, re-designed corporate reporting and information flows, and implemented new data systems to streamline reporting processes. Reporting into senior management was specifically designed to cover the breadth of the organisation and drive performance of key strategic objectives. Again, aiming to make teams and individuals accountable and make the strategy ‘stick’.
As an innovation and technology consultancy, we obviously enjoy developing corporate strategies, defining organisational direction and looking forward at the next five, 10 or 20 years. However, no matter how far reaching, exciting and ambitious a strategy is, it’s only ever as good as the organisation’s ability to implement it. So, in developing strategies that will see results it’s crucial to engage a wide range of people early on, put the right information in front of the right people and make it a part of everyone’s everyday.