As we embark on a new fiscal year, most companies are heads-down, setting budgets, determining new headcount, and compiling the resources required to be successful in 2024. I‘m writing to interrupt this planning exercise to ask a more critical question: Does your company have a clearly defined strategy?
Many public companies have a documented, well-oiled strategic planning process, but the outcome is often in a form difficult to consume by the people who need it most — your employees. In the startup and pre-IPO realm, planning and process maturity can be limited, creating a persistent gap in defining the necessary strategy your team needs. Very few of the companies I have advised or worked for over the past decade had a clear, succinct strategy that is documented, communicated, and understood across the company. This includes $2B public companies to pre-revenue startups. How does this happen? When we are so busy working “in” the business, we sometimes forget to work “on” the business. Life Without a Clear Strategy?
Management teams focus on quantitative goals such as quarterly targets and retention. In doing so, they forgo the opportunity to align teams with a clear strategy. Without the broader macro strategy, the mission is not well understood. The outcome creates an environment where teams may not have clear micro-level tasks — “What do I do today?” The lack of a broader objective and clear, associated tasks reduces productivity, wastes precious capital, and ultimately, impacts morale.
The lack of a clear strategy will impact productivity, and morale and ultimately diminish confidence in leadership teams
Bottom line, everyone in the company, from management to junior employees needs a rudder for clear focus and decision-making.
Enter The One-Page Strategy:
This problem is easily addressed by something I created and have implemented at several companies, I call it the One-Page Strategy Document. Spending the time to create this together with your team can be the most strategic use of your time in 2024.
The One-page strategy is critical to gaining the company-wide focus and alignment your team needs.
What are the Benefits Of A Clear Strategy?
Creating and documenting a strategy brings focus: it sets the direction for the entire company and provides the necessary context. It helps prioritize investments, partnerships, and acquisitions and provides context for decision-making. In addition, it aids in the ever-challenging question of what NOT to do. Without a clear strategy, investment in any activity is — at best — a guess, as your team will lack the context for daily decision-making.
When I was in a combat unit, we were essentially a large group of highly-trained, yet idle soldiers, waiting until our officer told us which “hill to take.” The One-Page Strategy document provides the same direction your “troops” need to accomplish their mission.
The One-Page Strategy: Key Components
This document will be created in an exercise you and your team will undertake together. Depending on your size, I suggest limiting participants to a smaller group initially to streamline the process. Key participants — at a minimum — should be members of your go-to-market team.
Part 1: Primary Goal
The first part of the document must focus on your ultimate goal. It is a clear statement of your mission. This needs to be simple, short, and easy to consume. What will you be recognized for if successful?
Cybersecurity example: Become THE leader in multi-cloud security and help Global 2000 companies secure their cloud infrastructures and operate confidently.
*Note I wrote this statement to describe a mock 2024 goal for Wiz Security based on publicly available information about the company, but is not an actual company goal. Part 2: Supporting Goals
These are additional goals and initiatives that help make your Primary Goal come to fruition. These are investments and programs the company will make to achieve the primary company goal. Think of them as the “pillars to support the building,” there should be no more than 4–6 of these. Any more, and management of your strategy initiative becomes cumbersome and could lose focus.
Deliver One Platform That Sees and Protects the entire Cloud Environment
Expand in Europe by adding 10 new resellers
Launch a customer training program to reduce friction and accelerate onboarding.
Part 3: Metrics
These are the numbers used to measure your progress. You must define both what you will measure, and the desired numbers indicating health.
Achieve $100M ARR
$2M in ARR from new resellers in Europe
Create a minimum of 5x pipeline to ensure sales growth
Reduce net churn by 5% in 2024
Deliver 10 new integrations in 2024 including Splunk, AWS, Microsoft Azure
Part 4: Outcomes
These are key milestones you will hit if you are successful
Secure 10 new customers in Europe
Gain recognition by Gartner as a leader in multi-cloud security
20% of new ARR in 2024 from new product
I have created a mock One-Page Strategy document to help you think through possible goals at your company. Check out the One Page Strategy Document for “Vandelay Industries.” (Click on the link above to download a PDF example of a mock strategy document)
Creating The One-Page Strategy: Process Tips
The process and final document should be highly collaborative and should be “top-down,” as well as “bottom-up” — meaning you should involve all of your team as much as possible. Start as an executive team to establish and agree upon the Primary Goal. The stage of your company will likely influence the level of difficulty for this task. This should be a goal you can strongly influence and affect in one year, but will likely require multiple years to achieve. It is critical that the executive team mutually agree on the Primary Goal. If there is any dissent, I suggest that teams embrace the management principle often used by Intel’s Andy Grove and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos known as Disagree and Commit. If everyone is not on the same page, the lack of consensus will lead to inaction.
Once the Primary Goal is established, leverage departmental leaders — VP of Marketing, Sales, Customer Support, Finance, etc — to define the Supporting Goals. This is a great exercise to involve employees and the broader team, and also to begin the process of communicating the goals of the exercise. As you define these, you should also identify the key metrics to measure progress, and the specific range denoting the success, as well as the outcomes.
I have worked with departmental teams to create an annual strategy with strong alignment in a one-hour meeting. The outcome of the process was highly refined; we were lucky to create something so powerful in such a short amount of time. I suggest that this process not take more than a few hours to define as a team, and should not become a lengthy process.
Once this work is complete, it’s up to your management team to centralize the teams’ work and finalize the One-Page Strategy. Avoid the temptation of this becoming a Five Page Strategy. The goal is to ensure focus and drive alignment — it should be easy for everyone in the company to understand.
How to Manage It
Be sure to bring the team along by launching the outcome of your One-Page Strategy to the company. It should be communicated verbally- never over email or Slack. An All-hands meeting, or offsite meeting is ideal, with participation from key functional leaders, and ample opportunity for teams to ask questions and provide feedback.
Consistency is paramount once you “go live.” Be sure to keep the strategy, and execution highly visible. Break down the work needed to support your strategy by month and quarter for planning purposes. Be sure to report on metrics, both when they are trending positively, and especially when they are not.
Some of your goals will likely need to change or shift, this is to be expected, and changes — as well as key learnings — should be part of the communication process. Last, be sure to identify and share milestones and achievement of goals — celebrating wins as a team is powerful. Conclusion
As we embark on 2024, I challenge you to align and empower your team. You likely had a planning process before reading this article, but I’ll bet that it lacked the clarity of the One-Page Strategy format.
Once in place, your team will know what needs to be done every day, and the role of leadership will be to measure progress against clear goals, communicate results, and hold your team accountable for execution. I hope you will ascend to the “top of the hill” together.
Finally, your document should endure. Revise every year and improve the process as a team. Please contact me with any questions, share any challenges, or let me know how this has impacted you and your team. Read more GTM transformation articles or contact me directly. You can reach me here.