You’ve created your strategy… but how do you evaluate your progress?
But… now what? How do you actually evaluate your progress toward your strategy?
We get calls regularly from people who have finished their strategic planning process and are suddenly confronted with the fact that their executive team (or board of directors, city council, etc.) wants regular updates on their progress.
If you’ve been struggling to evaluate your strategy, goals, measures, and initiatives, you’re in the right place. We have outlined the techniques you should use to get your strategy evaluation process whipped into shape below. (After all, your executive team is right—evaluating strategy is simply critical to executing on it!)
In order for your strategy evaluation framework to work effectively, you need to have a few things in place first:
Accountability: First, you need to have a clear owner for all of your goals, measures, and projects. But you don’t want to make your leadership team accountable for everything in your strategy—only the big-picture goals.
Responsiveness: Measure and project owners need to respond to requests in a timely manner. If you’re reporting quarterly, owners should have a 2-3 day window for turnaround—but if you’re reporting monthly, owners should only have a one-day turnaround.
Leadership: It’s absolutely crucial that your executive team is on board with your strategy evaluation framework. Leadership should ensure that they take the time each month or quarter and review the strategy. They should communicate the importance that this document and process have in the organization, and should constantly interact with staff about key elements of the strategy and draw the connection back to the strategy. This speaks volumes to the criticality of your strategy.
Strategy Review Calendar: Your strategy review calendar ensures everyone is on the same page. It should list when your report meetings will be scheduled so you can work backward and evaluate your strategy at a measured pace.
Your measures and projects are the building blocks of a successful strategy. If you run active reporting meetings, you might also have action items that need updating—but at a minimum, you need to know the current status of each of your projects and the current data for each of your measures. This can and should be done by a data analyst (if it isn’t automatically updating using a tool like ClearPoint’s Data Loader).
Once you’ve gotten an update on the percentage that each project is complete and you’ve collected data for all measures, you need to evaluate the RAG status of each. Depending on your organization, you may have defined the rules for a red, an amber, and a green status, or the information might be completed manually. The latter is often the case for initiatives, because you could have a project that is on track but over budget or a project that is on budget but off track with quality. Whatever you choose, the key is consistency in your evaluations.
Goals are based on the performance of your projects and measures, so once those are updated, your goal update will become much easier. Your goals can be automatically evaluated based on project and measure performance, but most companies—particularly those in the U.S.—manually evaluate their goals. To evaluate your goals successfully, you should be sure appropriate members of the leadership team provide a RAG status for quick evaluation and a qualitative assessment (which is sometimes referred to as the “analysis and recommendations”).
Once you’ve looked at your goals, you can start determining the key changes and drivers in your strategy for this reporting period. Are you doing well in innovation for a new product but struggling to manage costs? Are you seeing high turnover on your customer management team that is affecting customer satisfaction? By examining such situations, you start to determine the “strategy story” that hits on the key changes—including both major challenges and successes—over the month or the quarter. Additionally, once you’ve decided what needs to be highlighted, you can go back and gather more data and details.
While the goal is to hone in on areas you may need to improve on, your team is going to react best if you can celebrate a success. So if you’ve fixed a manufacturing issue, which caused your quality and sales to rise from last quarter, you’ll want to make that very clear to help cheer everyone involved on.
Depending on your organization and structure, this report could be for your stakeholders (shareholders, council, board of directors, etc.) or it could be for an internal strategy meeting. Your report template should allow you to add information consistently on a month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter basis. ClearPoint, for example, has a wide template library so you can create reports for varied audiences. Regardless of format, be sure your report shows how you have evaluated your strategy and highlights both successes and key action steps. In simple terms, it should show the good, the bad, and the ugly so you can use it to make an on-target action plan.
The importance of strategy evaluation cannot be understated. You need the right support and parameters in place to allow you to carry out the process above. Your leadership team should understand, value, and appreciate the impact this technique can have on your organization—and once they do, they will be far more likely to follow through with it.
And while this process is a lot of work, there are tools that can help make it easier. Software like ClearPoint is designed to support you in your efforts from start to finish.
Ted is a Founder and Managing Partner of ClearPoint Strategy and leads the sales and marketing teams.