November 2020
3 minutes

Individualization in the Strategy Process

As much standard as necessary – as individual as possible

Individualization in strategy work means to meet each situation with its specific characteristics. (Image: Lightspring/shutterstock.com)

Over the last 20 years, strategy processes have become highly standardized and rolled out across the entire Business and Planning Units to support structured thinking within clear time targets. This may be efficient, but it disregards the differing characteristics, maturity levels and market peculiarities of individual businesses and is at the expense of achieving the best possible results.

A few key elements are required for the overarching strategy process to form a common, robust core. However the process, methodology and the type of cooperation should be individually designed for each planning unit and aligned with real needs. What should be considered in practice?

1. Think about the degree of maturity of the planning unit

"Many roads lead to Rome." Do not force all areas into an entirely fixed method and tool ‘corset’. Respect the methods that have been used previously, and proceed cautiously when making fundamental changes. It is important to consider the strategic maturity and the experience of the teams, so that neither excessive demands nor the feeling of moving backwards are created. Remain flexible in your choice of methods - it's the result that counts rather than the journey, and the result must be supported by everyone. This is especially true for the analysis phase in the strategy process.

2. Pay attention to the specific character of the markets

Entire libraries are filled with the tools for strategic analysis. Therefore, tools need to be selected very carefully and should be appropriate to the complexity, structural conditions and maturity of the individual business. For a robust assessment of the starting position, a common understanding on our market position, innovation power, productivity, profitability and the attractiveness for good people is necessary. The individual design of the analysis phase should follow the guideline: "Focus on the few and the essential".

3. Define a robust, common strategy core

As individual and tailored the tool choice may be to the individual business, the definition of common standards for cross-unit milestones should be uncompromising. At the end of the analysis process, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats should be the result. In addition, there must be a clear common understanding of at least the following questions:

  • Where are the most attractive market-related growth areas?
  • Which skills and core competencies do we need to (further) develop?
  • Which goals must be achieved?
  • Which activities do I therefore need to initiate?
  • What investments do I have to make for this?

These questions must be answered by a common standard for all areas. This enables vertical and horizontal "alignment" and decision making across planning units, which is critical to success in complex organizations.

4. Consider different divisional standards in the implementation

Strategy work is part inspiration, but by far the greater part is transpiration. In most cases, the biggest challenge is not in the development but in the implementation of the strategy. A good strategy considers implementation constraints at an early stage and builds a bridge between strategy formulation and strategy implementation via process and robust methodology. In practice, there are usually no consistent group-wide standards. Over time, each division has established its own standard on how best to implement strategic initiatives and manage the overall portfolio. It is important to ensure that the established and familiar PPM and PMO standards are taken into account. In case of doubt, the motto "necessary and sufficient" also applies here.

As important as methodological freedom in the strategy process is, there is benefit in developing objectives, initiatives and necessary investments to a common standard for all planning units, regardless of their maturity level and character of the business.

Individualization in strategy work means to meet each situation with its specific characteristics. However, this only works if a common, robust methodological basis is available. It creates the prerequisite for formulating coherent and comprehensible strategies across business segments and levels. Support by modern, flexible and scalable software makes this possible in an effective and efficient way.

Your Ronald Herse

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