Develop a Growth Strategy “By People, For People”

Date: 11 Nov 2015

In our last post we discussed the importance of an employee engagement strategy and described a human-centered design (HCD) process to develop such a strategy that will “stick.”  This month, we demonstrate how design principles can be applied to refresh a core business activity:  developing a growth strategy.

HCD approaches are based on the principle of developing business strategies “by people, for people,” and they are especially effective for organizations that need to adapt to rapidly changing market, talent, and technology trends.  Leaders can apply this principle to growth strategies by partnering with employees to create and continuously refine these strategies in response to employee and customer-related change signals.  By gathering this on-the-ground insight, leaders can (1) more quickly see ongoing changes in customer needs and megatrends, (2) rapidly develop, pilot, test, and iterate new growth strategies founded on real data; and, (3) identify “ground truth” organizational changes that are needed to sustain the business growth strategy.

How it Works

Here are the drivers for successfully developing a growth strategy using a design approach:

People – Engage employees and current/prospective customers.  Inviting people into strategy development activities increases the odds of developing a meaningful and sustainable strategy, since customers know their needs best and employees have the most relevant ideas for actions that benefit them, their teams, and the overall business.   Gathering input directly from people also builds a sense of individual ownership that ultimately makes business growth strategies tangible and “sticky.”

Data – Leverage information to frame your strategy.  Gathering and analyzing a wide variety of data helps to identify organizational strengths and opportunities, customer needs and goals, and relevant megatrends (e.g., technology, the sharing economy) that offer opportunities to create new market value propositions.  Including the research on megatrends fosters creative thinking for those engaged in the strategy process and helps them to identify possibilities for addressing latent customer needs.

Priorities – Identify resources and actions to deliver maximum impact.  Incorporating leadership perspectives on company goals, performance, operating models, and strategic plans helps to set strategic priorities.  With baseline priorities outlined, ideation exercises can spark new ideas at the intersection of distinct categories, such as those related to customers/markets and trends.  Prioritization activities can help identify strategic choices such as where to invest scarce time and resources on actions to deliver maximum impact.  Finally, action planning can be centered around 90-day goals that leadership can adjust and re-prioritize based on quarterly performance, the evolving business environment, and new change signals from customers.

Since HCD approaches are adaptable, promote simplicity, and inspire creative thinking, commitment, and confidence in the outcomes, they offer tremendous advantages in a world of unprecedented complexity and rapid change.  How do you see design thinking enhancing your organization’s strategic planning process?  Let us know what you think by leaving comments via our Facebook page.

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