How the Role of Strategy Leaders Has Evolved

For those leading strategy, keeping up-to-date with the most recent trends and data related to strategic planning and implementation is not merely beneficial; it's essential.

Knowing the latest industry insights helps leaders make better-informed decisions and ensures more effective adoption of an organization’s or company’s strategy. It helps teams better prepare for challenges and capitalize on emerging opportunities. It's not just about knowledge; it's about maintaining a competitive edge and driving the success of strategic initiatives in a rapidly changing business landscape.

In this article, we’ll delve into what recent and pertinent statistics reveal about areas such as effective strategy execution and the ever-changing role of the strategy leader.

The rise of the “and” strategist

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in the expectations placed on strategists. The contemporary strategist is evolving and becoming colloquially known as the "and" strategist. This individual is expected to wear multiple hats, combining skills and competencies from diverse disciplines.  

For example, they’re not just marketing strategists; they're marketing and technology strategists or marketing and data analytics strategists. According to research by McKinsey, 91% of strategy leaders reported being assigned other functions beyond core strategic management.

This rise of the "and" strategist reflects the growing interconnectivity of business units and functions and the need for professionals who can navigate the intersections seamlessly.  As companies embrace digital transformation and data-driven decision-making, the demand for individuals who integrate strategies across various domains becomes increasingly vital.

One significant challenge stemming from this role shift is the absence of a clear direction for strategists in some organizations. Only about a quarter of strategy leaders mentioned having “a clear mandate aligned with the rest of the company,” while approximately a third stated “not having a mandate at all.”

This lack of a clear direction can lead to strategists struggling to prioritize tasks or facing challenges in aligning their objectives with the organization’s goals. Companies must give clear guidelines and instructions to these professionals so they can work well and help achieve the company's goals.

The majority of strategy leaders are restructuring their teams

According to McKinsey, a striking 87% of these leaders have expressed a keen interest in restructuring their teams or, at the very least, specific segments within them. This desire underscores the shifting landscape of strategy leadership, where professionals are taking on increased responsibilities amidst escalating complexities in strategic priorities.

In some cases, we are seeing the expansion of human resources to deal with increasing complexities; however, this comes with a caveat. While larger teams may be a common response to the heightened demands, it's crucial to note that size doesn't necessarily equate to enhanced productivity or a superior outcome to an organization’s strategy. 

Some strategists advocate for smaller, highly skilled teams on the front line instead. They argue that using fewer, more adept professionals rather than building a larger team of average individuals yields better results and generates more buy-in from the team. This approach also ensures a more focused and impactful performance management or strategy execution.


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Strategic impact on company performance is struggling

Nearly half of strategy leaders report their teams aren't fully successful, and less than one-fifth consider themselves highly successful. According to Marc Kelly, VP at Gartner, 61% of corporate strategists identify poor execution as the primary reason for the failure of new growth initiatives. 

This emphasizes the crucial role of effective strategy implementation. Gartner's research highlights the three key challenges that often make strategies fail — ambiguous responsibilities, an inability to cascade objectives, and a lack of clear priorities.

According to Gartner’s research:

  • When ambiguous responsibilities were present, 34% of strategies were not fully successful, and 16% were.
  • In cases where there was an inability to cascade objectives to teams and individuals, 22% of strategies were not fully successful, while 10% were.
  • When no clear priorities were present, 14% of strategies were not fully successful, while only 4% were.

Successful companies and organizations establish clear strategic goals and expected outcomes using a strategy map. Gartner’s research reveals that organizations with clearer strategic targets are 1.6 times more likely to achieve success in fulfilling their OKRs and/or KPIs.

Organizations are not changing quickly enough in response to disruptions

According to a Gartner report, only 29% of strategists acknowledge that their organizations change plans rapidly enough to respond to disruption. 

In today's dynamic landscape characterized by constant disruptions, the ability to adapt quickly holds significant importance. Exceptional leaders must ensure that strategic plans aren't static documents but rather dynamic roadmaps capable of accommodating various scenarios. To enhance adaptability, organizations should adopt the following guidelines:

  • Prepare to respond to change: Formulate strategies that consider diverse scenarios and remain flexible in response to disruptions.
  • Constantly monitor progress: Regularly measure progress against objectives, keeping a close eye on triggers that may necessitate a shift in strategy.
  • Swift project evaluation: Cancel underperforming projects promptly to reallocate resources effectively.
  • Assumption validation: Periodically track and validate assumptions to ensure they align with evolving conditions.
  • Establish a clear action plan: Outline specific steps and decisions to be taken in response to triggers, increasing the likelihood of successful strategy implementation in the face of disruptions.

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Regardless of your organization's planning style, size, or industry, AchieveIt transforms the strategic planning and execution process. Our software offers features such as automated updates, increased visibility, and enhanced connectivity to drive accountability and improve execution.

Our team of strategy consultants and customer success managers provides unwavering support at every stage. We ensure a smooth transition with onsite roll-outs, detailed training, and change management guidance. Leverage our expertise to optimize your plans for execution, and count on us as your committed partner.

Ready to enhance your strategic planning journey? Contact the AchieveIt team today.

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Meet the Author  Amanda Ferenczy

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