Strategy for growth: It pays to get granular
Duncan Campbell explains why detailed enablers are so important for ensuring your strategy is fit for purpose.
A strategy can’t survive on paper alone. Well-crafted words and striking graphics may grab the attention, but your strategy will remain a document and not an action plan, without the right management processes and skills to drive it forward.
Comparatively, the decision on which market you want to win in is the easy bit. Now, it’s time to consider the ‘strategy enablers’ that will bring it to life. What capabilities do you need to build or change to make it happen? And is the business clear on the required investments and resource to implement it successfully?
Here are 5 quick tips to turn aspirations into a robust strategy.
1. Think nitty gritty, not pretty ditty
The articulation of the strategy should be more than a description. It should detail the overarching ambition, the growth drivers, and revenue and profit targets. The process of writing this articulation will pressure test how clear and coherent the strategy is. It will often be the basis of sharing with internal and external stakeholders, so it needs to be watertight.
While your strategic vision is critical in giving you your focus of where you want to be, equally important are the specific steps and actions you will take to get there. To do this you will need to decide: what are the enablers for growth?
2. First, build a ladder
Beware the common pitfall of putting all of the emphasis on opportunities and initiatives, without spending the necessary time on working out how to access growth. If you can’t practically climb the tree, then you’ll stay rooted to the ground until the apple rots.
An enabler analysis looks at the capabilities, technology, structure and processes you must embed to enable growth. The first step is to identify a long list of what these are. Consider process changes, new assets, sites or facilities, supply chain and logistics, changes to pricing or proposition, cultural or structural changes, and anything else you feel could be a driver for growth.
3. Pick the right enablers
Prioritise the enablers by looking at which will have the biggest impact to win with the target market or consumer, as well as how much resource and investment is needed for new enablers.
Strategies often fail to deliver because enablers are not planned or resourced correctly. They may be the right thing to do but the business does not have the capacity to deliver. This is why enabler scoping and prioritisation is critical for creating credible long-term sustainable strategies.
A final note here is to include BAU projects when prioritising all enablers. They each impact on the business’s capacity for change, regardless of which stage they are at. Meanwhile, consider your target operating model. This is a high-level representation of how a company can be best organised to more efficiently and effectively deliver and execute the strategy. Its primary purpose is to enable the application of a corporate strategy or vision to a business
4. Don’t be afraid of the weeds
When you have your strategic framework, you need to get down into the micro details. This is the due diligence bit, where you dig under the hood to see if she’s a runner. Typically, this works on a one-year horizon, and is required for an audience who will be implementing the strategy. It is a detailed plan, with absolute clarity on targets, key actions, RACI, resources (capex, opex, people) and any risks.
A corresponding full one-year budgeting will ensure that strategic priorities are correctly funded. Budgets for the individual initiatives can be rolled up to assess the total budget behind the plan.
5. What’s the score?
The final step is creating an agile scorecard to track implementation and ensure you are agile in how you act. Here, using objectives and key results (OKRs) on a quarterly basis enable you to change direction as needed. The key is ensuring the OKRs are balanced and ladder back to the strategic imperatives. You don’t want to be over indexing in one area as it will bring a distorted view of how the strategy is performing.
Helping midcap companies find a strategy that delivers
It’s no secret that long-term behaviours drive greater value creation. Read the annual report of any business of any size or sector, and you’re almost guaranteed to find sustainable growth as a headline ambition.
Research shows the clear benefits of going long. Over a 15-year horizon, major companies that focused on their future business enjoy an average 32% revenue benefit in comparison to those more focused on their current business.
But while it’s essential to grow, it’s essentially hard to do. Just one out of every nine companies sustains profitable growth for a decade or more. On average, one in three publicly listed companies will not exist in five years’ time. That’s a five-times increase compared to 50 years ago.
At Cognosis, we have built relationships with successful midcap businesses who reset their strategy with us every year, as a matter of course. What's changed? Where are we now? What do we need to do differently? They trust our consultants to help them balance short-term gain with sustainable growth.
We provide a tried-and-tested framework for creating a successful strategy, backed by a toolkit of solutions. In recent years, we have helped successful midcap businesses such as William Grant to Arco.
 Zook, C. and Allen, J., 2016. The Founders Mentality. Boston, Mass.: Harvard business review press.
 Harvard Business Review. 2016. The Biology Of Corporate Survival. Available at: