Need to know: business strategy

We talked about how important it is to know and understand your business’ strategy in some of our earlier columns. But if, as well as knowing about the strategy, you are able to summarise it, there are important benefits:

  • It means that you can talk sensibly to suppliers, job candidates and other external people on a level that interests them.

  • You will be able to talk with brevity about the strategy when engaging clients in a dialogue.

Having a summary of the business strategy in mind will help you make day-to-day decisions about your priorities or those of other people you interact with or support. It means that if someone asks you for something that doesn’t align with the strategy, you can challenge them from a position based on knowledge. For instance, you might say: “Well, the strategy is x,y,z, so why are we pursuing this?”

You can only summarise something if you really understand it, so an ability to sum up the business strategy for your organisation in simple terms helps you to fully get to grips with it. This will be more difficult if you are constantly trying to think about the whole strategy rather than a breakdown of the main points you can carry in your head.

To get to know the strategy in this way, you could ask others in the organisation, or get involved in groups that are creating or shaping it. You might facilitate brainstorming sessions, or help design and manage the process of determining what the strategy will be. If you know and understand the strategy to this degree, it will be much easier to pull out its salient points.

You can also summarise the strategy in terms of people’s behaviour and choices in the organisation. What are they focusing on? What do they spend money on, or time and energy pursuing? This will help you to analyse how the strategy is lived. If this differs from the salient points in the written strategy, then it signals the need for a conversation about why that might be.

It is therefore important not just to summarise the strategy at a high level, but also to summarise the implications both for your HR function and your own part of the business.

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