How to Optimize Your Strategy Review Meetings in 5 Steps
Studies reveal that 85% of management teams spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy. Learn how you can stop this from happening in your organization and improve your executive meetings.
It is not uncommon for strategy review meetings to derail and get off topic. It is, therefore, imperative to design them correctly and restrict them to “subjects that matter” to maximize their effectiveness.
This is even truer when we take into account the people present in them. Strategy Review Meetings reunite the people who have vested interests in the matter to be discussed with those who can offer the best insight on them. It is also vital for the CEO or business unit leader to be present to signify the importance of the subject and that decisions will be made. Designing an appropriate strategy management process and a clear agenda will help make the most of their valuable time. However, executives will find that this is many times easier said than done.
Here are five principles that will help the strategy committee improve their executive meetings:
1. Separate Strategic Reviews From The Operational Reviews.
Most organizations already have a solid structure in place for reviewing their operations. Such executive meetings take place on a monthly basis and focus on short-term operations.
On the other hand, the entire strategy review process has a quarterly orientation, both to report results and to enforce them. These reviews can be built upon the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) structure. They should be designed to stimulate a comprehensive analysis of the organization that goes beyond business unit boundaries.
Most organizations prefer to discuss operational and strategic issues in separate meetings and on separate days, to avoid operational matters taking over the whole meeting. However, some companies have found that combining both reviews allows them to tackle operational decisions with a strategic approach. Executives must keep in mind that this combined approach requires much discipline to restrict each issue its allotted time.
Deciding what approach works better depends on each organization’s culture. Nevertheless, a separate-meeting approach generally provides a solid forum for discussing all matters appropriately.
2. Review Strategy on a Quarterly Basis.
A strategy is, by nature, focused on the long term as many of its components change little from month to month. However, once-a-quarter reviews this may lead to executives to “forget” the strategy in their operational handlings.
One way to solve this is to segment the strategy into three main strategic themes, and hold monthly reviews that focus on a different theme each month. This way, although each theme would be reviewed once every quarter, executives would be working together on the strategy on a monthly basis.
Nonetheless, we recommend having a monthly follow-up meeting to focus on evaluating ongoing projects and initiatives, as well as monitoring low-performing indicators, typically those marked in red or yellow in the Balanced Scorecard.
3. Build a “Strategy Council”.
Implementing strategy inherently calls for change within the organization, which should be guided and executed by a management team. This team should composed of the CEO (or business unit leader) and their Executive Committee.
However, the team requires an extended breadth of knowledge and sufficient cross-business integration of activities to make the best informed decisions possible. Therefore, members who can add comprehensive strategic perspective and knowledge should be added to the executive core team. They can each be assigned responsibility for a strategic-theme, thus further legitimizing their participation in the strategy review process. This extended team is known as the “Strategy Council”.
4. Use “open reporting” to promote accountability, transparency and teamwork.
Open reporting cascades the knowledge from top-tier executives to those in charge of materially executing the strategy. It makes strategic knowledge available to those who can do most with it and helps mobilize the organization to pursue the objectives set by the Executive Committee.
5. Create issue-oriented meeting agendas.
There is a big difference between data-oriented and issue-focused discussions.
In data-oriented meetings, the executives responsible for each indicator present their data to the rest of the Strategy Council. Members then discuss this data and a list of issues emerges. After the meeting, a group refines the list, analyzes it and identifies viable plans of action. These are then presented to the Council at the next meeting where their review and recommendations are examined, adjusted and accepted.
This approach ensures objectivity because the discussion is rooted in facts. It also encourages everybody’s participation as each member has the opportunity to give their interpretation of the data. On the downside, this approach may lead to one-way presentations rather than dialogue. Also, it does not motivate attendees to review the information beforehand, as they will undoubtedly review it during the meeting.
On the other hand, when using an issue-focused meeting format, BSC reports are previously sent to members for their revision. The meeting then focuses on discussing the two or three most important issues, as determined by the CEO and the Office of Strategy Management (OSM). The team ultimately reaches a consensus on the option to be pursued for each issue. Afterwards the OSM develops an implementation plan for the said options, which is then discussed and approved during the next meeting.
This format seeks to keep presentations to a minimum and emphasizes the discussion of issues. It also offers guidance to ensure the discussion focuses on strategy, rather than on data. Yet it may sacrifice some democracy as the issues to be discussed are selected by the CEO beforehand.
We recommend taking an issue-focused approach to strategy review meetings. Although the data is important for developing insights, it is only a means to an end. By having theme owners lead the analysis and interpretation, executives will be able to take full advantage of the combined knowledge present and review issues from multiple perspectives, thus ensuring an optimal decision-making process.
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At TRISSA we can help you and your company develop a sturdy strategy review process to ensure its success. We offer a comprehensive set of consulting services, executive education and software solutions to help our clients adopt the best practices and achieve greater results.
Author: Trissa Strategy Consulting
Source: Norton, David P- and Jay R. Weiser. "The Strategy Review Process." Balanced Scorecard Report (2006): 1-5. Online journal.