The 7 rich streams of a 'smart' training strategy

Are you digging for gold or coming up with only coal dust?

thinking strategy

It seems everywhere you go...everyone can write a strategy.

That may be so, but it is a good, intelligent one, borne out of business connection that drives quality not quantity. Are you all things to all staff?

In a world of budgets and constraints and a strong desire to prove value, it seems absurd to spread your resources so thin, you have only a little to deliver a lot (stakeholder expectations). So the first step is to prioritise.

How do we prioritise?
I suggest you first write your context narrative first. Without it, you are trying to construct your training fortress on the sands of assumption, not on the more solid rock of data and informed opinion.

Blasting away assumptions and history
Take a look at these 7 rich seams of strategic information from the internal and external mining activities. Without them your strategic contextual narrative will seem rather empty and mislead you towards paths that simply don't get tangible results. In this age, that's a disaster for any central function short and simple.

1) Killer business drive (and results to match)
With a business acumen mindset you make great strategic choices both short terms and long term but execute them in the right way engaging and inspiring stakeholders to bring them with you. This is because you fundamentally understand organisational challenges and their root causes, from a customer's perspective.

2) Hot Data and understanding of Risk
To make great strategic choices, you need to base those decisions on solid rock data, avoid assumptions and validating information with the right people.

You have to start loving the analysis process and climb into bed with it. It's your new business partner. You need to be able to decipher the patterns of organisational and human behaviour and home in on a practical and viable solution. In planning terms it means understanding the risks of not doing certain things as reviewing internal processes to ensure they are morally up to stratch, they have to be fit for purpose. At the planning stage, write multi level plans that suit different functions. One size does not fit all! Never has.

3) Understand your stakeholders' wish list, both internal and external
It's a strategic big fail and a PR flop to not truly understand what your most valuable stakeholders (including those externally) need from you, from the organisation.

At an operational level, to build the 'scaffolding' support you need to make interventions work, you need to engage the scaffolders' or it will all come tumbling down pretty quickly and you will be left with blood on your hands.

Communicate and involve is the only way to make this process truly real.

4) Lead by innovation and manage change
Finding a smarter way, better than has gone before, in everything that you do, is crucial in staying ahead. In retail we have a saying, 'standing still is going backwards' because everything moves at such a pace.

Innovation doesn't come through replicating what someone else has already done, but seeking out great opportunities to improve and re-engineering solutions to fit your context. Change is a source of pain for many so not only must we create flexible plans that can be responsive to change (building in contingencies like any good project manager) but creating a culture of change drivers that own it rather than being constantly subjected to it. It's far more exciting and engaging that way.

5)Know the global and industry context
Imagine that you were in the oil industry right now. To think you couldn't ignore world events that ricochet into the financial markets and create instability (e.g. pension funds) you would be naive. The world has many problems and in this country as part of the global leadership team, we often set examples or tackle issues head on from here and feel them first (or somewhere in between depending on what they are). Anything that affects the global financial markets affects us deeply.

As an effective business partner, having your finger on the pulse is essential for credibility. You may not have all the answers but you can have an opinion and that's IMPORTANT.

Legislation and regulatory constraints are the challenge of a 1st world nation. They make the daily lives of our operating managers ever more difficult so supporting them in these revolving door changes is a must.

6) Your organisational situation
Where is your organisation on the development curve. Which services or functions are in maturity and performing well, which ones aren't? To be strategic is to plan for the future but if the house is burning down you haven't much of a future if you don't grab a fire extinguisher right now.... You simply can't ignore the problems of today. The you prioritise them (use 80/10/10 if that helps). At an operational level, you must be able to make things work and achieve your goals, so a handy force field analysis might help you overcome some of those execution barriers.

7) Dominating culture(s)
Senior leaders direct the tone, line managers set it. To ignore this aspect of functional and team environments is again naive. Each team operates under the auspices of a dominant leading culture, which allows or disapproves of certain behaviours and actions allowed in its' battle zone. If you try to fight against it, you must have pretty strong armour but it's a long journey, choose your battles carefully.

With strategic planning, it has many dynamics and rich sources of information which must be considered before attempting to draw up a set of plans to delight your stakeholders.

Let alone thinking about the team who has to deliver it. The final piece of the puzzle and that may be your biggest challenge yet.


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