Recipe for step change

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Senior management teams are great at coming up with strategic priorities, to the extent that many are drowning in them. The path to rectifying strategic overload is less obvious.

Yet Peter Killing, of IMD in Switzerland, says there is a clear method bosses can use to define and approach “must-win battles”.

Prof Killing suggests the chief executive takes 10-15 top executives to a remote location to brainstorm for three to five days. The first step is to find out how each participant views the current state of the company.

The next step is to seek consensus on where the company wants to be, perhaps five years hence. The workshop should then identify “must-win battles” that lie on the road to that point.

Prof Killing says each of these should: have a significant impact on the whole organisation; be focused on the external marketplace; be aspirational, not incremental; be tangible and measurable; be winnable.

One way to minimise turf wars at the workshop is to give all participants the same information beforehand. But Prof Killing says confrontation can be cathartic: “Let it happen – that’s when you have the breakthrough.”

Finally, the trickiest part: bosses must obtain the support of juniors for the new strategy when they return. One way to begin this is to debrief workshop participants in front of 80-150 top managers.

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