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Your strategy can be confidential, proprietary and driving every employee's actions too

Great article in InfoWorld by David Margulius Business strategy, meet execution in which he links to a study on the problem with getting from strategy to execution. I particularly liked this comment in the study:

"Most devastating, 95 percent of employees in most organizations do not understand their [organization's] strategy."

Wow. so why is this? Well partly I think there is an execution problem - the decisions taken by front-line employees are not impacted by the strategy (I blogged about this before) but one of my colleagues (thanks Rory) pointed out that another basic issue is that of secrecy. The top levels of organizations, where strategy is concocted, often hold it close to the vest with the idea that it is confidential, proprietary and a competitive advantage. Given that they are reluctant to tell the troops for fear it will "get out". There are also strategies- be the most aggressive about raising prices say - that might be bad PR also. While one may criticize this thinking, it is understandable. So how to keep strategy confidential and yet let it drive the way every employee (or system) interacts with customers? Enterprise Decision Management.

Let's think a little about how this works.

  • Consider the key operational decisions - the one's taken by the most junior staff (those furthest from the strategic heart of the company). Automate them - either completely or at a level that provides automated guidance for the person such as suggesting offers actions - using a technology like business rules to implement policies.
  • Expose those policies to management using templates so that they can be easily changed and provide some impact analysis tools so that business managers can see what kind of effect a change will have.
  • Work on ways to turn the insight gained from reports and business analytics into executable analytics suitable for embedding into operational systems. If retention is identified as a critical issue, figure out a model to estimate retention risk for a customer and embed that prediction into the rules handling retention offer making
  • Bring the performance management and reporting environments used by business managers to drive strategy together with the ability to change the rules in the operational systems. That way, when the data suggests a change is needed, the business managers can decide on the new strategy ("get more aggressive about customer retention") and turn that directly into rules to "make it so".

Now what you have are front-line staff who still don't know the strategy but whose interactions with customers are driven by that strategy, informed by the same analysis of the business and yet agile enough to respond to changes as and when they are made. EDM.

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