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Your Complete Guide To Strategy Evaluation Tips & Techniques
You’ve created your strategy… but how do you evaluate your progress? This six-phase technique will help.
So you’ve created your organizational strategy and have a good idea of where your company should be going in the next five years. Awesome.
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!)
6 Strategy Evaluation Tips & Techniques
1. Ensure that the most important components are in place.
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.
- Pro Tip: Measure analysts and project owners should provide updates on everything so executives can then take that data and work with it instead of wasting time tracking it down.
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.
- Pro Tip: Celebrate those who turn in their work on time, and let those who are not as quick to respond fail once. If this happens again, you can take action—but more likely than not, those who did not turn in their work in the appropriate time will act accordingly and get things turned in at the right time the next month or the next quarter.
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.
- Pro Tip: When you’re getting started with strategy evaluation, you’ll likely have one person on the leadership team who is heavily involved—and the rest of the leadership may not be. This individual should focus on translating the strategy evaluation process into a valuable scenario for every leadership team member. For example, someone in HR needs to know how this process supports their strategic values in HR.
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.
- Pro Tip: Having a complete strategy review calendar will increase your transparency. This means everyone can see when strategic elements are due on a day-to-day basis, and everyone understands fully that in order for the process to continue, they need to stay up-to-date with their deadlines. (Our in-depth management reporting guide can help with this process!)
2. Update your measures and projects first.
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).
- Pro TipForUpdating & Evaluating Measures: Keep all of your measure charts consistent so those involved can evaluate the status quickly and easily. You may consider using a uniform color code throughout. For example, blue would indicate actual results and orange would indicate your target.
- Pro Tip For Updating & Evaluating Projects: Consider how you can summarize key project milestones to best suit the needs of the executive team. This summary may include a status indicator, percentage complete, and a paragraph summary. If you want to include details of the project that may be important to you but aren’t so important to the leadership team, include a link to those details in your software or add the details in an attachment.
3. Evaluate your measures and projects second.
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.
- Pro Tip: Depending on where data lives in your organization, you may want to have one person gathering and updating data and another person evaluating that data. For example, the information technology department may update their measure and project data, and someone from marketing may be tasked with evaluating that data.
4. Update your goals.
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”).
- Pro Tip: You’ll have several measures and projects that tie into your goals. The best way to present this information is to highlight the data that best tells the story of how you’re doing during that reporting period. You don’t need to repeat evaluations of the measures and projects supporting each goal.
5. Determine the “strategy story” for the reporting period.
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.
- Pro Tip: While going through this strategy evaluation process, you may begin noticing that one person is charged with coordinating the entire effort—from goals, to measures, to projects. This can be very overwhelming. If this is the case, start figuring out ways to involve analysis from additional individuals.
6. Create your report.
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.
- Pro Tip: Keep in mind, your report may be a bit more generic, while your strategy story will be the place to highlight an executive summary and some details on successes and challenges.
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.