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How to develop a Strategy

Have you reached that point in your career where your first Strategy is awaited and yet you have no idea where to start? I remember it well. I was introducing Change Management across Royal Mail and whilst I recognised the word, I had no idea what was expected of me. Here are some hints and tips that I have identified along my journey and recently captured when I was mentoring a senior manager.

1. Purpose:

Be clear about the purpose of the document, the audience it is targeting and how it will be shared. In this example we are focussing on developing a Strategy for a Department. It will provide clarity for staff and stakeholders, it will describe what the Department does and how it contributes to delivery of the Business Strategy. It describes how business benefits/success will be measured, ie Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Tip: a highly effective strategy links the Department outcomes to the Business Strategy and ultimately to customer satisfaction and loyalty. As a result, it provides a clear line of sight to establish team objectives which in turn provides clarity for individual objective setting and performance reviews.

2. Research:

  • Be sure to link your Strategy to the overall Business Strategy and build on the earlier Strategy written for your Department.

  • Review Strategy documents that currently exist within the business. Identify what works well and what doesn’t. Research on the web and learn from others.

  • Review your achievements since the previous strategy. What can you learn from successes and shortfalls?

  • What period of time will this strategy cover? Is there value in a five year strategy when change is moving at such pace? Is there value in short termism when considering long term investment?

  • Understand what your senior manager, stakeholders and customers expect from your Department. What’s current? What’s on their horizon? What are your strengths? What are the areas you need to focus on?

  • Explore what is happening locally, nationally, globally within Politics, Society, Technology and your competitors. How do they influence your direction?

Tip: Collate and evaluate your research by completing a PESTLE and/or SWOT analysis with your senior team.

3. Start writing:

  • You know what works best for you in terms of writing. Do you need to block out time and a find quiet space? Will starting with paragraph headings help you structure your writing? Who can you ask to read your draft and provide robust feedback? Seek input and involvement from your direct reports.

  • Write a compelling vision for your Department, one that is memorable and provides a clear direction.

  • Circulate a draft to key stakeholders and seek feedback – how does this help them achieve their outcomes?

  • Write the final version, obtain sign off from your senior manager.

  • Circulate and share with the audience you identified in 1.

Tip: When writing, identify what this means to you and your leaders, managers and staff in terms of skills, abilities and numbers. Consider budget implications. What systems changes will this require? What processes need to be adapted? How will you measure success simply? How does the current culture facilitate success? What behavioural changes are needed to succeed within staff, managers and leaders and yourself?

4. Engaging staff, building commitment:

Schedule a workshop with your leaders first, then with all of your staff, managers and leaders to:

  • Share the Strategy, provide the context and be very specific in your expectations about what will be different in terms of actions and behaviours.

  • Explore what this means to build their understanding.

  • Involve them to develop a timeline - scope key activities, prioritise actions, assign owners and timescales.

  • Share how progress will be measured, how team and individual objectives will be set.

  • Explain that monthly one to ones will be the norm to review progress, provide feedback and support and manage under performance.

  • Outline what personal development will be available.

  • Provide monthly updates using red, amber, green (RAG) reporting to highlight progress for each KPI and key focus for forthcoming months.

  • Recognise and celebrate successes.

Keen to explore further? Then please do contact us at

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