Strategy Teams focus on identifying and implementing strategic initiatives, or the projects that represent ‘how’ an organization accomplishes its strategic objectives. Many of our client strategic portfolios are focused on critical needs to include technology solutions, employee training, product or service development, and customer satisfaction. The problem with some of these portfolios is that there is no alignment with what the process improvement team is working on.
Often the problem can be traced back to how a project identification/selection workshop was managed. Many strategic planning teams are asked to brainstorm projects for their strategic objectives without a lot of guidance, and so they end up with a mixed bag in terms of effectiveness and alignment. That ineffectiveness happens because strategy teams often do not naturally gravitate to formal process improvement as a way to achieve objectives.
At the same time, many process teams do not naturally think and prioritize based on strategy. Getting these two teams together gives the process improvement team a structured approach to align their work with strategy and gives the strategy team a better chance of actually improving objective performance.
This exercise can be facilitated using the Strategy Profile / Canvas tool from the Blue Ocean Strategy methodology (Source: Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan and Renee Mauborgne, 2005). Our strategy clients and certified professionals will recognize the tool we typically use for identifying new and innovative strategies. In this exercise we use the same visual to help identify the most critical processes.
In Figure 1 below, the team will focus discussions on the maturity of objective-related processes for the objective “Improve Recruitment”. Keep in mind that the exercise is meant to drive discussions around a topic versus participants scrambling to find data to support their opinions. Having subject matter experts and process owners in the room is critical!
In the X-axis, we capture the key processes impacting the objective. If the right people are in the room, the team should be able to agree on the most critical processes in short time. In the Y-axis, we pose the discussion question “How efficient are our processes?”. Having a team then discuss and plot where they are today and where they need to be to achieve the objective is always fun to watch.
You will likely run into the same issue I have – teams wanting to score their “Need to be” at the highest level possible. Simply remind your audience that in strategy, we cannot say “yes” to everything and to improve in one area we will likely need to stop focusing on another. Once done discussing and plotting, have the team vote on which processes would formal process improvement efforts have the most strategic impact. A large gap does not necessarily mean a process will be targeted for improvement. A process with a small gap may be so critical that it requires immediate attention. Only the team can make this determination.
How the process improvement effort is managed varies by organization. Some organizations have Lean capabilities and resources to drive the projects while others rely on experienced staff to address their department’s needs. If a process improvement team exists, it is very beneficial to have them present at this workshop. This helps with integrating them into strategy execution and helps them better understand how to best manage their strategic process improvement portfolio of projects.
Success is having an objective team understand which processes impact their strategic objective and why specific processes were targeted for improvement. Further, if a process improvement team exists, having them understand the origins of the project requests and future needs is equally important.
Richard Juarez, MBA, BSMP, PMP, KPIP, email@example.com, is a Senior Consultant, Strategic Planning and Strategy Execution for the Balanced Scorecard Institute/Strategy Management Group. Richard is a performance management expert and thought leader who brings real-world planning and execution experience to his training and consulting engagements. Richard is also a secondary author/reviewer on A Guide to the Business Architecture Body of Knowledge® (BIZBOK® Guide), v 5.1; 2016.