The major challenge in business strategy isn’t so much in formulating one, but rather in implementing it and seeing it through to successful results. I’ve discussed one aspect in transforming strategy to action before, which is the method of nested hierarchical planning. This involves getting everyone in the organization to pull in the same direction and to create plans and activity that will lead to strategic success.

However, another important aspect is temporal: How do you translate the strategy into successful action month after month, quarter after quarter, year after year? How do you generate ideas that will build on each other in a sequential manner such that you are not constantly reinventing the wheel, but are also innovating by introducing new products and services, entering new markets, and upgrading processes and procedures?

I was discussing this exact issue recently with a long-time client. We were brainstorming ways of conveying the need to build on past successes while continually introducing new approaches to grow the business. That’s when I happened to think of the metaphor of waves. I proposed that the existing way of doing things, including existing clients, products, markets, and processes, that’s the First Wave. The way we want to do things during the next planning period, that’s the Second Wave. The way we want to do things during the period after that, that’s the Third Wave.

Obviously, this could go on ad infinitum, but for most purposes, three waves should be enough. Once again: Wave 1, that’s what you’ve done successfully in the past, and what you are doing now to generate and operate the bulk of your business. Wave 2, that’s what you’ll be doing in the next activity period, the one you’re starting to implement now by putting in place the essential elements to ensure success. Wave 3, that’s the wave after next, and you have to start thinking of it now, so you can be ready to start creating its success conditions during Wave 2.

The beauty of this approach is that it is fractal in nature. In other words, it can fit in with any hierarchical planning and action structure, and it can also be reproduced in the detail that is sufficient and necessary for each level of an organization, and that corresponds to that level’s outlook, responsibilities, and sphere of influence. So at the strategic level, the waves correspond to the company’s fiscal years. At the operational level, the waves are also annual, but also correspond to the company’s fiscal quarters. Tactically, the waves are quarterly, monthly, and could even be weekly or daily, especially when we’re talking about the continual planning and updating of intent that must happen to realize the company’s strategy.

This is the first time I officially present this metaphor, but the underlying concepts it instantiates are also presented in considerable detail in my book, Brilliant Manoeuvres, particularly chapters 4 and 7, where I discuss nested hierarchical planning and the notions of areas of influence and interest in the context of intelligence gathering and interpretation.

Back to my client, we looked at his overall strategy which we developed last year, but found that we needed to express its implementation in terms that would be readily accessible and understandable throughout the company. This year’s activities and business, they constitute Wave 1. Next year’s activities and planning, they’re Wave 2. The activities and planning for 2014, which will go into gear in 2013, they’re Wave 3. Here’s the critical point though, Wave 2 has to be in place by the beginning of 2013.

That means they have to be working on it now. They can’t be waiting until late December or early January before they decide what they’re going to do differently next year. Moreover, they can’t be doing things the same year in and year out. And, they can’t also just meander without ensuring that their activities, the Wave 1, 2, and 3 actions, are fully aligned with the mission, vision, objectives, and strategy of the company.

© Alcera Consulting Inc. 2012. We encourage the sharing of this information with attribution. All other rights reserved.

  1. dongrgic says:

    Ultimately success comes down to planning and execution.

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