Gaining Traction With Your Strategy

TractionWhen you begin actually working with groups on strategy formulation and implementation planning, you begin to realize that there are a lot of moving parts and elements that make it all come together.

We like to refer to them as the 6 C’s of strategy.

1. Courage

Everyone who embarks on a strategic journey needs to act courageously and commit to having open dialogue and free-flowing communication.  People have to be willing to discuss the “undiscussable,” peel the onion and dive into topics that aren’t normally given a lot of conversation time.  For example, you might ask questions like

  • “What do we want to look like in the future?”
  • “What should we do differently?
  • “What should we stop doing?”
  • “How do we compete?”
  • “Where do we invest our resources?”

These conversations take time and patience, things that many leaders lack. We like to point out how important these conversations are by asking our clients, “Do you have time for the truth?” Many leaders who usually work at a fast-paced, tactical level find strategic work to be a bit uncomfortable at first.

Strategic leadership requires a willingness to listen and seek understanding. You have to be willing to promote inquiry before advocacy.  In these situations, people have to take courage by speaking up, being bold, and saying what they think, but they also need to be patient, listening carefully to others, letting them express their ideas, and actually hearing what they have to say.

 2. Conflict

When it comes to strategy, people naturally have very different ideas about how to move into the future.  However, resolving differences without being aggressive, punishing others, or trying to win the argument takes some effort and some skill. People have to focus on the common interests and the common good rather than their personal preferences or position.

The best solution is usually the result of many good ideas coming together to form a cohesive, well-rounded idea. Conflict can be used to this end by stimulating synergy and driving creativity.  However, conflict also has the potential to be destructive, so it’s important for people to be conscientious, but also to have thick skin when working with others. No one can expect to get everything they want.

3. Collaboration

As far as we’re concerned, strategy is a team sport. Members of the organization have to be inclusive and look for ways to create win-win solutions, coordinate, and align across functions.  And like so many other aspects of strategy, building joint solutions takes patience, creativity, and a willingness to work through differences, but it will be worth the effort.         

4. Creativity

By its very nature, strategy creation is an act of innovation.  People have to use their ingenuity as they look for new solutions, new processes, new methods, and new offerings. And this means is that change is a distinct possibility. Many people fear change, but when formulating a new or different direction for the business, they must be willing to move beyond the personal pain and loss they associate with transformation.

People have to be willing to move beyond the box, look out over the horizon, experiment with new ideas, try new combinations—even fail.  The creative process can be a little messy, but creativity is a big part of strategy creation, formulation, and execution.

5. Clarity

Providing your team members with clarity of direction will help them understand where the strategy is intended to take them and the business. Can we pinpoint exactly where this journey is leading? What does winning mean for our organization?  What does success look like?  What are our major objectives? What are our key initiatives that we need to accomplish? Clarity can be achieved by using the acronym CLEAR to test the statement we use to define our strategy. “CLEAR” stands for Creative, Linked, Energizing, Actionable, and Results-oriented.

When your strategy is creative and innovative; linked to the goals and vision of the broader organization; energizing and personally motivating for organizational members; actionable and capable of producing tangible, measurable outcomes that people are held accountable for producing; and results that are not only measureable, but that also help the organization to become more competitive, productive, efficient, relevant, and successful over the long term, then your strategy is CLEAR. Ultimately, strategy is all about long-term success and viability.

6. Commitment

It takes deep buy-in, support, and commitment for strategy to work. We like to call it the “discuss, decide, and support” phase of strategy.  People must be willing to take personal ownership of and accountability for the strategy, and they must feel as though they are genuinely part of the strategy-formulation team in addition to being members of a functional team.

People need to be committed to and accountable for contributing to the team’s progress and making a difference.  Members of a strategy team are extensions of the strategy, and even if they don’t get exactly what they want, it’s still their responsibility to sell the ideas, explain that no one ever gets everything that they want, and stand for the decisions of the group. This type and level of commitment is a big piece of strategy.

Now, when all 6 C’s are working, something magical happens: you begin to gain traction on the strategy as it’s executed. No matter where you create strategy, the ultimate goal is to achieve progress and gain traction on your strategic goals so that the strategic journey is a success. The 6 C’s of Strategy will certainly help you on your way.

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About the Author

Steven Stowell, Ph.D.

Dr. Steven J. Stowell is the Founder and President of the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, Inc. CMOE was created in 1978 for the purpose of helping individuals and teams maximize their effectiveness and create strategic competitiveness. Steve’s special interests lie in helping leaders and organizations transform into high-performance cultures that are focused on long-term, sustained growth.Steve began his career working in the energy industry. During the past 30 years, Steve has consulted with both small and large corporations, government agencies, school systems, and non-profit organizations in 35 different countries.Steve enjoys the challenges of • Helping functional organizations define, create, and execute strategy in order to differentiate the business. • Developing and designing creative and innovative learning experiences, simulations, and keynote presentations. • Helping functions across the organization be more effective and aligned in executing long-term plans.The centerpiece of Steve’s consulting, learning, and executive coaching work is his advocacy of applied research and data collection. Steve is a highly effective presenter and facilitator and enjoys creating customized solutions, assisting senior teams, defining strategic direction from the individual level to the corporate and business-unit level, and improving teams that are faced with important challenges and issues.