Has Agility Killed Strategy & Planning?


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Agility has become a hot topic lately – but has it become so hot it’s killed traditional approaches to strategy & planning? For many the planning process is about to kick-off so why not take just a few minutes to watch our Top 10 tips on taking a fresh approach this year.

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Has Agility Killed Strategy & Planning?

  1. 1. 1
  2. 2. In today’s current fast paced environment, how DO people go about Strategy and Planning? There is a clear need for businesses and brands to be able to be much more fleet of foot in todays 24/7 world but this could clearly lead to chaos. The secret is to build in more flexibility into operating plans – keep budgets back to enable response to unexpected opportunities, hold more ‘little and often’ planning meetings etc. - BUT counteract this by ensuring longer term strategies are in places and understood by everyone. These will provide clear guidelines within which people can work quickly. The phrase ‘freedom within a framework’ sums up the need to develop a situation where people can be agile but within the right boundaries. 2
  3. 3. Strategy ( choosing what you do) and Planning (doing things well) are both essential if the business is going to flourish. Good Strategy is ultimately more critical for long term survival as it means you are doing the right things to compete. So don’t let the need to become more agile in day to day activation distract you from having a great strategy. For example, the choice of Netflix to move early to on-line TV and Film streaming is the key reason why they’re flourishing, while others aren’t. There are many other examples where businesses operating in the same category have performed very differently – Ikea are flourishing while other home furnishing businesses have folded over the years. And working faster, doing more things, getting more communications out there in response to our 24/7 always on customers will not have an impact in the long term if there is a lack of clarity on the direction the business needs to go in, and where it is adding value to customers. 3
  4. 4. Strategy and Planning processes can become incredibly complicated both on paper and in day to day business life, and there is a real danger of losing sight of the wood for the trees. It is tempting to create lots of tools and templates in this area, and some of these can become complex. However, if things become too complex, then that becomes counterproductive – so the secret is keeping it simple. 4
  5. 5. Our 3 Level thinking visual captures in simple terms the big picture which show how different levels of strategy and planning fit together. It helps people understand that there should be a clear connection between day to day agility and a business’s longer terms vision/ If a Business has a clear mission, set of values and vision of where it’s heading this will guide clarity on the markets or segments they have chosen to operate in e.g. P&G have made active choices about the product categories they are interested in, but also the type of consumer (people who are interested in more premium / added value offerings). P&G also take each of their brands and ensure these have medium to long term strategies based in real insight e.g. Olay has been transformed over the last decade from a low price ‘pink lotion for old ladies’ to one of the world’s premium skincare brands. Clear decisions have been taken about how the brand will win in the market place over time. They are really clear about this, so people on a day to day level can make fast decisions because they are certain about who is, and who isn’t a priority, what product areas are, and are not, of interest, and how they should behave, driven by clear organisational values. 5
  6. 6. When it comes to great strategies and plans, there is often a lack of common understanding of what success looks like. Teams of marketers know they have to develop strategies and plans but in our experience need to be given confidence about what a great strategy or plan actually is for their particular business. What can really help agility is ensuring everyone is working to a common set of success criteria. 6
  7. 7. Success criteria for great strategies may be a simple set of questions e.g. • Is there a Strategic Plan that everyone is aware of? • If so is it simple so everyone gets is, and used as guidance for activities? • Have clear choices been made about customer target & behavioural change objectives? • Is it driven by insight? • Commercially viable? For plans, these questions might be: • Do Activities connect with Strategies? • Are they in line with the overall Brand Positioning? • Are individual plans connected and ‘hot spots’ in terms of timings of activities for multiple brands / propositions recognised and dealt with • Do individual plans add up to the required overall goals? • Do plans build in the need to regularly monitor progress vs. goals? • Have budgets been planned to enable responsiveness to ‘always-on’ considerations • Are all functions involved in delivering the plans fully aware and on-board Make sure all are clear on agreed success criteria and are able to use these to challenge their own thinking. 7
  8. 8. Many marketers’ heart’s sink at the prospect of another round of strategy and planning. Often it can feel like a box filling exercise that takes significant amounts of time above and beyond their daytime job. To counteract this, insure capability building inspires rather than turns off marketers. This can be done by kicking off the strategy or planning process with a more externally focussed session where teams pull together case studies of other businesses and brands who are growing – and analysing what it is they are doing and why. Find brands who have a clear long term strategy – demonstrating consistency over time – but who are clearly connected to the here and now. 8
  9. 9. Mastercard’s long standing ‘Priceless’ idea demonstrates how consistent brand strategies provide the right framework for agile activity. There are many more that people can learn from. The secret is finding brands that your marketers identify with, and then learning from them... There are many great examples out there which can inspire teams with a vision of what their strategies and plans could end up delivering, which makes the process far more motivating. 9
  10. 10. Marketers do need defined processes but our next hot tip 5 is to keep these light touch by building them around key questions and outputs. What people really need to do is ask themselves the right questions, and have clear direction on the required output – so they know what it is they have to produce. By all means provide them with handy tools so they can get to even better outputs but don’t overwhelm them. For example, once of the most long-standing and well known tools in the MS&P armoury is the famous SWOT. All to often though, people forget that what they really need as an output of a situation analysis, which might include producing a SWOT, is a set of 3-5 Key Issues. It is these Key Issues which are critical – the SWOT is one of a number of tools which help you get there. 10
  11. 11. If we look at a Brand Strategy process, we can keep it simple, and more useful, by remembering there are really just 5 outputs. Some clear issues and then simple behaviour change objectives are needed so everyone is aligned on the current situation and the destination. Then create integrated mix solutions, along with a timing roadmap which, along with fully aligned teams will make it clear to all how you intend to get there. 11
  12. 12. ‘Where are we now’ – the situation analysis stage – can take time and lead to analysis paralysis. To stay agile focus on understanding your priority customers buying decision journeys. These buying journeys look very different now from a few years ago – for some people, the right approach now is to start with the ‘shopper’ and work backwards. 12
  13. 13. Insight and deep understanding are required to know how people explore options as they consider buying, what they do when making a purchase and then understanding their experience of your product or service. Looking through this lens will uncover key issues and opportunities, drive more relevant objectives and lead to better and more effective marketing solutions. 13
  14. 14. Moving onto tip 7, when looking at marketing mix solutions ensure you think ‘integration’. It can still be tempting to think in terms of the 4 Ps as if these were distinct areas of the marketing mix. However, with digital technology, product and service solutions, communications, pricing and route to market channels can and should be far more itegrated. In order to do this, more time is needed for teams to develop new ideas and explore how these can be built further using all the marketing mix levers available to them. 14
  15. 15. Nike’s Fuelband and Kinect’s on-line fitness training support solutions are a great example of this – here, product, service and content strategy are combined to develop a new offer which really adds value. 15
  16. 16. Tip 8 reminds us to nurture a co-operative and collaborative culture as Strategies and plans are developed. If handled well, the planning processes can act as a catalyst to bring together different individuals and teams to share understanding of their perspectives, build higher order solutions, and create a positive and collaborative culture. 16
  17. 17. It’s really important that people align around the same issues and work creatively on integrated solutions. So give permission for people to connect properly with others – build this time into processes, create key issue/opportunity sharing sessions, idea generation sessions, encourage people to share and build in fresh and different perspectives. 17
  18. 18. This will help with the penultimate tip... which is to make sure marketers win internal support for their strategies and plans. 18
  19. 19. Today’s world is changing rapidly - the best strategies and plans may represent a significant departure from previous approaches. To get fresh thinking through, focus on building support internally, and ensure the right people are involved at the right time throughout the process. 19
  20. 20. Today’s world is changing rapidly - the best strategies and plans may represent a significant departure from previous approaches. To get fresh thinking through, focus on building support internally, and ensure the right people are involved at the right time throughout the process. 20
  21. 21. Today’s world is changing rapidly - the best strategies and plans may represent a significant departure from previous approaches. To get fresh thinking through, focus on building support internally, and ensure the right people are involved at the right time throughout the process. 21
  22. 22. So that’s 9/10 of our top tips on refreshing Strategy and Planning to make it fit a more agile world. You may well be thinking ‘there’s a great deal to consider – where do I start?’ 22
  23. 23. Which is why our final tip is to review and diagnose your approaches and identify where your particular weaknesses are. Select the tip which is most relevant. Is yours a well-meaning but dull process which people dread each year? Is it overly complicated, and lacking in insight into the customer journey? Do people get lost in the complexity without knowing what great looks like? Knowing the problem areas on which to focus is a great first step. 23
  24. 24. And if you want tailored help in introducing more agile approaches into this coming year’s strategies and plans, please get in touch with Amanda Jenkins, Thought Leader for Marketing Strategy and Planning at Brand Learning. 24
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