Blog - Strategy

What is a Strategic Review?

Posted by Scott Newton on Aug 9, 2019 3:10:00 PM

And why should you participate?

Strategic Review. Two words that in the minds of some people elicit a reaction of happiness and excitement about shaping the future and in the minds of others dread of another day of powerpoint and stale sandwiches. How can your participation be more about the happiness and excitement reactions and less about stale sandwiches?

Thinking Dimensions Boardroom

Let’s start with what a Strategic Review is:

It is a regularly scheduled activity including the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) during which the ELT examine what has been working and what has not been working in the strategic direction of the organization and plans the adjustments that will increase or maintain performance.  

When conducted properly, this is an excellent opportunity to reset the pace and ensure alignment in the direction of the organization and is utilized to effectively make the future decisions that will count the most toward success. An effective Review can be adapted to many different series of requirements yet all have a common set of themes that run throughout them when they are effective.
Effective Reviews:

  1. Have clear and easy to understand data sets and graphics which are distributed to participants prior to the meeting. 

  2. Are based on common and agreed upon metrics and data sources, which are timely.

  3. Link back to the vital few assumptions about the future, which have the largest impacts on the company and are quantified.

  4. Have the explicit commitment of participants to review and prepare for the meeting in such a way that they can make informed contributions based on facts and data rather than opinions or subjective examples.

  5. Compare SHOULD and IS information- meaning that there were projections clearly made within the strategic profile of the organization that now can be compared to actual historic data and thus be used as benchmarks.
When all five themes are respected, you should be able to conduct an efficient strategic review in four hours- what you will find over time is that an effective process emerges that allows participants to focus in on the high-level decisions that require attention. It does not turn into a journey down into the weeds of the business where people sometimes have a tendency to wade.  I have now even seen midsize companies that are able to effectively pull live dashboard data from external and internal sources in their ERP systems and then drill down into it as required while comparing back to the future strategic profile.

Where Reviews tend to go very wrong is when they become operational meetings or are dominated by one key department, a couple of high power individuals, or an attempt to cover too much ground.  It is also very important that the review stays on track and on time, as otherwise people begin to dread the whole experience and tune out.

Why should you participate in a Strategic Review?

You should commit to your participation in a Strategic Review, because this is the point where you and your colleagues on the ELT will make the decisions that adjust to the future to the best of your abilities. If you do not participate in the review or come to a review unprepared, then the result is that your voice and viewpoint will not be counted and the direction of the company could go very wrong.  

We can all think of companies that had interesting and viable strategies yet failed to execute on them or worse were going well to a point and then failed to adapt to the change in course demanded by the markets.  It is painful to watch companies head off in bad directions and disastorous when they collapse as a result.  The point to remember here is that competitors, markets, suppliers, and all your stakeholders do not work on your Strategic Planning Calendar nor agenda- this is why you need to meet- regularly and be informed and prepared- so that your contribution helps the organization head in the right direction. 

If you found this blog post useful- feel free to also download our complimentary Ebook of which I am one of the authors- entitled “Why Decisions Fail”.

New Call-to-action