Strategic Response Speed - the essential survival metric

Strategic response speed isn’t something most organisations measure, but it is rapidly becoming one of the most important dimensions of organisational effectiveness and performance.

Strategic response speed is how fast your business can respond to external change – first detecting it, then adapting and changing accordingly. It’s a new idea.  Of course, businesses have been developing strategies, and implementing them, for years.  And, managers have been complaining for almost as long about how long it takes to implement change. But seen as an overall organisational response to new threats and opportunities, which needs to be thought of and managed as a whole, it’s a new idea. And, like most new ideas, it needs to be understood before it can be managed.  So, here’s a quick introduction to the idea. 

Strategic response requires mobilisation across most, if not all, of the business model. 

The Business Model

That may seem obvious, but it’s a point worth making, as it brings into focus the range of things that might need to change – some of which aren’t obvious.  As one example, for many businesses, their enabling activities and infrastructure (Finance, HR, physical space, IT, etc.) are barriers to making change happen quickly and often need major rebuilding to support what could seem like fairly minor strategic shifts: witness the struggle of so many organisations to bring in new “digital” skills and talent when their pay and reward arrangements (as well as performance management processes) are better suited for the world of 10 or 15 years ago. 

There are 7 key stages to strategic response, that map roughly to parts of this business model.

Seven Stages of Strategic Response

7 stages of strategic change:

1.      Sense – Detecting opportunities / threats that require a response.

2.     Decide – Evaluating available information and deciding upon a course of action (or none at all).

3.     Develop – Developing the form and manner of response – e.g. new customer offerings, new organisation structure, new processes.

4.     Procure – Obtain resources required to carry out a response – which may require changes in existing supply arrangements and / or the creation of new supply chains.

5.     Enable – Putting in place the supporting activities and infrastructure to allow changes to be made. This could include new HR processes, different finance and transaction processing systems, etc.

6.    Implement – Putting new processes, etc. in place.  

7.     Deliver – Responding externally and interacting with customers.

For a particular strategic response these can happen in a different order, at different times. Change may be emergent from the frontline, organisations may sense a threat or opportunity they might want to respond to, and develop a response, before making a decision to fully commit to enacting the response.  But, regardless of when and how, these fundamental stages will be present – and it’s worth considering them as a whole.

So, with that background, here are the questions to be answered:

  • How long does it take your organisation to respond to emerging threats and opportunities? 
  • Is that time getting longer or shorter, and why?
  • How does that time compare to how fast the world is changing and the speed at which new things are coming at you?
  • What would have to change to be faster, and what could you do if you were quicker?

Getting a precise, fact-based answer to any of those questions would be a major undertaking, and perhaps not worth the effort.  But, getting a general sense of the answers – and more importantly, what you might do about them – is probably a discussion worth having in your organisation. Who knows where it might lead? 

“The future is going to be fabulous – let’s get there quicker”

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