Knowing Where Your Risks Lie
January 29, 2024
Knowing Where Your Risks Lie

When it comes to planning, we sometimes joke that anyone can build a strategy.

While it’s certainly an exaggeration to assume that anyone can build a strategy, the point to emphasize is that creating a strategic plan is just the start. The real work comes in bringing that plan to life and executing upon it.

In the last Pulse, I wrote about the difference between executing strategy vs managing projects, and that led to some great conversations with customers. In particular, I received a lot of questions about how to make the switch from simply tracking initiatives to check the box to building a strategy to execute upon.

Often, it starts by identifying where your risks lie within your strategy. 🔎

Now, when I say ‘risks’, most folks jump directly to the negative. They want to outline teams that are overcapacity, individuals that own too many Objectives, or even measures of success that have drastically increased from previous reporting periods.

While each of those are certainly areas of exposure, we can also flip the conversation to see that these areas also offer the most opportunity to over-deliver on the plan. They can be the audacious goals or big bets we are making to hit that next level of growth.

However, whether it is an area of opportunity or potential risk, we have to identify those load-bearing parts of our strategic plan in order to proactively navigate the execution of the strategy through the course of the year.

So how do you go about identifying those areas of risk within your strategy?

Well, here at Elate, we like to run an audit of the plan as it makes its way from being a rough draft.

While I won’t go into all of the parts of our audit process, here are 3 key items to keep in mind:

1. Evaluate the Supporting Infrastructure for Annual Themes ⚠️

While it doesn’t have to be an even distribution, you need to ensure that you are building the right infrastructure to support every Theme.

As an example, we see almost every company set a Theme related to Culture, yet time after time when it comes to setting supporting Objectives…crickets compared to Revenue or Customer-centric Themes.

2. Establish a Measure of Priority for Leadership Objectives

Building a great Strategic Plan is a blend of art and science. But over time, you should gain more conviction in how it’s built.

To ensure you are making these continual gains, I recommend setting a scale for prioritizing Leadership Objectives.

We use a scale of Value and Effort, which gives us a baseline to help Leaders weigh their Objectives. Over time, this gives us the ability to identify how many high effort/value Objectives we can accomplish in a given quarter or for the year.

Prioritization Matrix, shown in Elate

3. Eliminate Island Objectives 🌴

No Objective walks alone. You want to ensure that you build a structure that connects Objectives vertically within teams and/or horizontally across departments.

Additionally, every single Objective should connect to a Company Theme. One of the quickest ways to identify whether folks are working on the wrong things or incorrectly prioritizing work is to identify those Objectives not connected to others or tied to Company Themes.

Hierarchy View helps visualize how your Objectives and Themes are connected

Wrapping up...

While these certainly aren’t an exhaustive list of all the ways you can identify the areas of risk and opportunity within your strategic plan, I hope that this gives you a good starting point.

At the end of the day, you need to identify these risks, not just for the sake of knowing, but so that you can orient your operating rhythm in order to consistently review and take action on these primary Objectives as needed.

So whether it is potential exposure or opportunity, the way that you review your execution of the strategy as a Leadership team should be heavily guided by ensuring the information for those Objectives is being proactively communicated, and that the meetings are geared towards taking action on how those Objectives can be properly supported.

From your pre-read material heading into Executive Team Meetings to driving the conversation around where your involvement is needed, don’t lose sight of where your risks lie as you head into the new year. 💫

How is your team (or you) auditing your strategy for risks and opportunities? Would love to hear in the comments.

Thanks all for today... have a great rest of your week.