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Does your business strategy manifests in your processes?

There is always the million dollar question of how to link the enterprise business strategy to operational processes so that the strategy gets executed effectively. Enterprises adopt various mechanisms and programs to institutionalize strategy. Strategy is like an invisible enigma. It drives the enterprise but it often does not manifests itself visibly. Enterprises these days try to socialize their strategy through Strategy Statements. But that is often not enough or rather not better than making it visible through linking the strategy element to process execution. If such a mechanism can be built in and consensus is reached on this mechanism, there will be improved evidence for strategy execution for business decision makers to make agile course correction of strategy.

There are three major phases/areas of Strategy Management:

1) Strategy Formulation/Development - This phase either has a process of devising it or done by intuition of leader or lead by leadership team or embedded already in the management team which guides the organization.

2) Strategy Communication - Which also has a process of doing it at times or manifests itself into operating strategies as understood by subsequent teams performing execution of the strategy. This communication depending upon the nature of it can be explicitly communicated or not so.

3) Strategy Execution - How exactly the strategy is executed or how it is manifested into action. This manifestation of strategy is to be resulted in the enterprise business processes or behavior.

The fourth aspect that am going to talk about is Structuring Strategy Architecture - this is about formalizing the strategy - this aspect cuts across all the three pieces above and tries to document these three phases effectively so that they can be tied together and monitored effectively. If we cannot monitor our processes, we are loosing sight of the goal. Same is the case with strategy monitoring. As part of Structuring Strategy Architecture, the business architect, should not only deduce all the aspects of these three phases and knit them together, but also help in devising a performance management approach to keep the progress in check.

And here comes the trouble - this work cuts across all the three phases but there are hurdles at every phase and the business architect may or may not be part of these three real phases as well - so how can one structure strategy?

Phase I (Strategy Formulation/Development) - Business Architect  (who is external to the enterprise) is not involved in this process. Strategy does not manifest visibly - it is in the leaders mind. So, how to interpret the strategy and document the strategy statement?

Phase II (Strategy Communication) - Business Architect may or may not get the real communication. He/She has to keep all their senses alert to identify what is communicated in the enterprise and how. How close or relevant is the communication happening is closer to the strategy devised - the fidelity of the communication is to be checked.

Phase III (Strategy Execution) - Business Architect got to check how the strategy is executed and advice about the nuances of improving it. This is more operational and process oriented - process architecture is the nature of the phase.

Having listed the hurdles for structuring strategy, is there an approach to "model" strategy - more like a process model which helps in structuring processes so as to bring in process thinking across the enterprise. The Business Motivation Model (BMM) of OMG provides a meta model for business motivation and strategy is an element in the meta model. BMM lists Strategy as a means to achieve business goal (end) - the right approach to achieve the business goals given the environmental constraints and risks. Apart from BMM, Strategy Map concept by Kaplan & Norton is another approach to list strategy and link them together logically.

If the enterprise has identified its process portfolio, then all the major processes should be linked to each of their goals - so this way one can associate processes and goals. To these high level goals (can be from balanced scorecard perspective or from other goal modeling techniques), the architect can try to list down possible strategy statements.  So, these strategy statements can either be readily available or to be built with discussion with stakeholders. If this is listed against each goal for the major processes, then the enterprise decision makers can have a view of business processes to goals to strategy. Strategy does not have any properties - except shelf life for usage and applicability.  A goal has properties like sub goals, ownership, performance measures, quantifiable objective etc. Corporate Performance is measured as per the goals set and mostly not by the strategy adopted - but strategy is the means to achieve it - the cunning plan against competitive forces to reach the goal effectively.

Listing down strategies related to major processes of the enterprise is a challenge. If done so and linked along with goals which are in turn associated with the processes, it can definitely lead to effective decision making for sure............

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