I am constantly looking out for new material and best practice to incorporate into my strategy workshops. Occasionally, I summarise the key ideas – so here are some items that caught my eye recently – Strategy case studies and more matrices. Dates for future strategy sessions at PM Forum.
Renewing business strategy – Case study at Fox Williams
Jane Biddell shared the strategy review journey for Fox William (law firm) in PM magazine in Jan/Feb 2023.
They used the eight step process of John Kotter in his book “Leading Change”. Urgency was driven by the timing of a one day partner conference scheduled for November 2021. The used an external facilitator and sent an advance questionnaire (positioning, approach to sectors and services, rates of growth, culture, service delivery, learnings from other firms) to all partners. They analysed responses and conducted external research including competitor analysis.
At the conference they focused on the overall vision, the next generation and strategic priorities, expectations of partners, client service and sector. A Board member anchored each discussion and all partners contributed to each theme.
Actions were focused on four workstreams (vision, people, clients and sectors and governance) and each was tasked with making recommendations to the board and partnership that would lead to an agreed and refreshed approach to strategy. By the partners conference in May 2022, there were well-developed recommendations from two work streams and outlines for the others..
At the November 2022 partner conference, sector heads presented their growth plans. And they focused on Richard Rumelt’s observation “Good strategy works by focusing energy and resources on one or a very few pivotal objectives whose accomplishment will lead to a cascade of favourable outcomes.” And, more succinctly, as Rumelt has also observed “strategy involves focus and therefore choice”. Book review of Richard Rumelt’s “Good strategy, Bad strategy” (kimtasso.com)
Developing and implementing a coherent strategy – Case study at Withers & Rogers
Zoe Bailey (Head of strategic operations at Withers & Rogers LLP) and Andrew Hedley (management consultant and former architect) presented an episode of Re-tuning your firm on this topic for the Managing Partners Forum in January 2023.
- Strategy is an artisan craft not an academic process
- At the core is making choices for creating sustainable competitive strategy (so be prepared to say “no” to great ideas that don’t fit)
- Coherence and alignment are critical. Jim Collins said (his book is reviewed here Classic management book reviews – The McKinsey way, Good to great (kimtasso.com)) – “Good strategy is 1% vision and 99% alignment”
- Make things more simple, not more complex
- Four strategy questions (the first two from “Playing to Win: How strategy really works” by A G Lafley)
- Where to play – where to compete, in which markets, what sorts of clients and work
- How to win
- Why people join (Employee Value Propositions)
- Why people stay
- Start from where you are – use a resource-based view (and logical incrementalism – in bite-sized chunks)
- It’s about recipes not ingredients (which are similar to our competitors) to achieve differentiation and change is a leadership issue
- Everyone needs a clear understanding of the strategy and how to behave coherently
- Bring strategic frameworks to life
- Three areas of focus:
- Learn from the past (productivity, profitability and culture, things that constrain, intended and unintended consequences)
- Be agile (plot the course of the journey, remain alert to changing dynamics, change course if necessary, ground yourself by broadening your support network)
- Keep it simple and bring it to life – e.g. use acronyms
- BUILD (at BDO)
- Unifying culture
- Leading markets
- Digital mindset
- Great people
- Reward and recognition
- Operational excellence
- Winning worldwide
- (People, Profit, Process, Prospects)
- BUILD (at BDO)
A previous conference session from Zoe and information about Employee Value Propositions (EVPs) is covered here PM Conference Report 2022: Strategy implementation (kimtasso.com)
Strategy in action at Simmons & Simmons
Eddie Bowman was former marketing and BD partner at Simmons & Simmons (law firm) he talked at the Re-tuning your firm for the Managing Partners Forum at the end of October 2022 on strategies and programmes that drive revenues.
- Stop doing the rubbish – particularly internal issues – be laser focused on the clients.
- Massive potential to drive revenue through tactical programmes (e.g. regulatory changes).
- Tendency to try to do too much – focus on doing less but doing better (e.g. four annual multi-layered programmes).
- Get a handle on the collaboration conundrum – take the whole firm’s services to the client (cross-selling reward systems).
Managing growth – Superpositioning matrix
An article in the April 2020 PM Magazine by Alistair McLeod at Gray Fox Consulting questions whether growth is good for your strategy. “The principles of the superposition model don’t lie in the management competency of the firm itself, they lie in making sure the management strategies are aligned to the client markets, service lines and professionals within the firm”.
Consider what type of work do you do (drivers for the firm’s projects) and what type of practice you want to be (drivers for the firm’s professionals). On work types he talks about practices being strong on delivery, strong on service or with a strong idea. Types of practice are either practice-centred (lifestyle business) or business-centred (corporate business). Focusing on implementation he then proposes that you map out your work type against your type of practice so you can see how to bring the firm’s services and management disciplines into line to sustain growth.
Strategy implementation – Growth probability matrix
Naturally, there’s a lot of attention on how to implement a strategy. A useful tool is the McKenzie growth probability matrix. It uses a matrix with axes for ability to accomplish and growth potential which results in four possibilities:
- Low ability – Low growth potential “All at sea”
- High ability – Low growth potential “Heading off course”
- Low ability – High growth potential “Missing the boat”
- High ability – High growth potential “Full steam ahead”
How to succeed in strategy and implementation
A HBR article from 2017 suggested:
- Only about 8% of company leaders excel at both strategy and execution. This relates to the idea of leaders being either visionaries or operators
- Case study – Schultz at Starbucks
- Start by building a bold but executable strategy
- What are we great at?
- What are we able to achieve?
- Ensure the company is investing behind the change
- Make sure the entire organisation is motivated to go on the journey
For those involved in Not-For-Profit and charities this is a great introduction to strategy CCE_BBG_Boards_involvement-Sept2021.pdf (city.ac.uk)