Our client was facing significant challenges to its business model, with pressures on margins, a market shift away from pharmacy stores, faltering store sales and growing central costs. The new leadership team recognised the need to clarify the strategy, align the organisation behind it in order to deliver, and create a robust review procedure to keep the business on track and equipped to handle changing external circumstances.
Our aim was to bring focus by identifying, clarifying and reviewing all the strategic initiatives, and by enabling the executive team to collaborate more effectively on the decisions driving the business.
We started by identifying all the initiatives and then mapping them against the six strategic business objectives (SBOs). There was a strong feeling among the client team that not all the initiatives were right in terms of delivering the strategy. We assessed the initiatives against the strategy and the strength of their business case, with the aim of optimising the number of initiatives.
We worked with the directors each directly accountable for an SBO and together created a link between the profit drivers, strategic dilemmas, strategic objective, operating model and activity plan. This helped us to identify the key strategic dilemmas the executive team needed to resolve, and informed the operating model work which followed on.
Once the initiatives were agreed, we set up an initiatives review process to continually review the capacity and strategic priorities in the business. This was led by the newly formed strategic change delivery office. It enabled the executive team to focus their energies on debating the strategic dilemmas that really made a difference. We helped the strategic change office to manage the critical paths and connections between the strategic programmes, making sure they were all working together, without duplication, to achieve the strategy.
With the strategic business objectives clear and the delivery programmes defined and supported by strong business cases, we worked with the executive team to create a straw model strategy map and scorecard.
During this process, we facilitated monthly two-day workshops with the executive team, focused around the strategic initiatives, encouraging a more transparent, curious and collaborative culture that would enable the right decisions to be made. This was a key component of the strategy work, whose aim was to make this new way of working sustainable.
The initiatives were mapped onto a large white paper, which became an iconic image of the programme in the business. This visual transparency helped to trigger the right conversations. Those conversations were reinforced by having clear and consistent evaluation criteria and process for all projects and programmes across the business.
It was important to keep pushing, refining and simplifying the strategy until everyone could understand it and see where all the initiatives fitted – or didn’t fit. By linking the strategy to the profit drivers and then to the lead KPIs, we helped the client to see the cause and effect that hadn’t always been obvious before.
By making sure the executive team were aligned at each stage of the process, we were able to keep moving forward, and teams could see the progress that was being made.
We didn’t do this work in isolation. As the strategy was being refined, our stores improvement project was providing direct feedback on the efficacy or otherwise of the strategic initiatives. This feedback loop brought the strategy to life in real time.
The strategic initiatives were reduced from 450 down to 90. This led to a significant reduction in external consulting spend in the first year and contributed to the organisation design work, which in parallel led to a significant reduction in central employee numbers, bringing our client back in line with the benchmarked costs of its competitors.
A client-run central strategic change delivery office continues to manage the strategic initiatives and the executive team continue to hold their own monthly strategic review sessions.