Strategy Case Studies

Consider the following examples of Strategy Development from the Progress ConsultingTM casebook

Strategic and Organizational Renewal

A Board of Directors directed its organization, which had more than 100 locations and nearly 10,000 employees, to engage in strategic planning. Management was frustrated with previous strategic planning efforts, which produced thick documents that provided no helpful direction to the organization. Management also discovered that previous plans had primarily been used to promote pet projects.

This time, management and the Board opted for a participative strategic planning process designed and led by a Progress Consulting business improvement coach. The process provided a clear and common focus on outcomes, energized the organization and ultimately placed each of its locations on a path of continuous improvement, with all components pulling in the same strategic direction.

A Successful Board Retreat

A leading financial organization faced several complex issues requiring more thorough debate than regular monthly meetings could ever achieve. While a retreat seemed like the ideal setting, participants were skeptical. The previous year’s Board retreat had been a disappointment where participants felt overwhelmed with “process” and unfocused in discussion. They said that the previous year’s event had been a poor use of their time where management received no clear policy direction from the Board.

This year, the Chair and CEO engaged a business improvement coach from Progress Consulting, who, after a briefing of just one hour, framed the issues in a comprehensive and thought-provoking 14-page analysis of the situation and alternatives.

At the retreat, Board members and management debated the issues and reached clear conclusions after just eight hours. Although certain Board members had planned to stay behind to make sense of the results and plan next steps, the clarity of the professionally coached sessions made this unnecessary and the coach was left to document their conclusions.

Within 24 hours, participants received an independently prepared, comprehensive, 19-page coach’s report that laid out board’s roadmap for the year ahead.

Consensus Without Compromise – Board Planning

A Board chair and CEO were planning a 1-½ day retreat. While a number of planning issues required the Board’s direction for the year ahead, several Board members’ terms were ending soon and the highly respected CEO of more than two decades was about to retire. With so much organizational knowledge and experience about to exit, they needed to make the most of the limited time available. They engaged a business improvement coach from Progress Consulting.

Because the coach was briefed only seven days before the retreat, the CEO and Chair said they expected that the retreat would only raise issues and not resolve them. They did not expect to reach firm conclusions.

The business improvement coach understood the important role that skilfully developed pre-retreat work could play. Within 36 hours of the briefing, the Chair and CEO endorsed the design and content of the coach’s pre-retreat package and participants were put to work.

Twenty-four hours before the retreat, participants returned their pre-retreat work to the coach, who converted it into workshop exercises in time for the beginning of the retreat, enabling participants to hit the ground running.

Assisted by the business improvement coach’s organizational skills and guidance, participants not only identified and discussed the issues, they reached concrete conclusions on all of their topics by the end of the retreat.

Less than four days later, participants received a comprehensive, 16-page guidebook, prepared by the coach that, based on their deliberations, outlined the organization’s role, governance model and work priorities for the year ahead. This also became an ideal policy document to orient incoming Board members, recruit a new CEO and provide strategic guidance and directional stability during the upcoming transition.

A Highly Productive Task Force

A task force comprising senior financial leaders from across the country was given a two-year mandate to re-engineer a major, nation-wide education process. The task force required creativity and problem-solving techniques that went beyond traditional meeting rules and methods. Quick team building was also essential.

The task force chair believed he could best contribute by participating fully in the discussion instead of concerning himself with process matters. The Task Force also required its deliberations to be captured quickly, objectively and accurately in a dynamic, superbly written report.

These objectives were achieved with a business improvement coach from Progress Consulting. The level of teamwork achieved by Task Force members is demonstrated by their annual reunion, which continues today, a decade after issuing its report.

Stakeholder Consultation – Shaping Financial Regulations

Following the collapse of Enron and other notable business failures, U.S. regulators instituted strict new rules for audit and accountability, particularly the rule known as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) 404. Canadian regulators followed suit with draft rules of their own, and sought comment. The challenge was how to encourage appropriate debate and consideration of such complex issues within a limited time frame. A leading financial association assembled 22 financial leaders of major Canadian corporations and five subject matter experts from major accounting firms to debate the issues in a single, day-long meeting under the leadership of a Progress Consulting business improvement coach.

The coach’s objectivity helped to frame complex issues in terms that encouraged debate among the participants. The coach applied advanced questioning techniques and problem-solving methods to draw out areas of consensus and disagreement. Clear patterns emerged.

The coach captured the deliberations in writing. Within six days of the event, the sponsoring organizations received the coach’s independently prepared, comprehensive, 18-page report that:

  • Analyzed 28 issues or alternatives
  • Provided participants’ consensus on seven clear recommendations to regulators.

Regulators received a comprehensive package of proposals that reflected the wisdom of a wide range of business leaders. The resulting government policy reflected much of this feedback.

Stakeholder Consultation – Developing Government Policy

A branch of government with an annual budget of $50 billion sought to develop long-term health-related goals for its stakeholders that would have stakeholder support and be successfully implemented. Rather than directing bureaucrats to develop the goals behind closed doors, the government engaged business improvement coaches from Progress Consulting.

Working with the coaches, the bureaucrats framed the issues and identified the stakeholders whose knowledge and influence would be key to this venture’s success. They developed a recruiting strategy for the consultation and organized several simultaneous consultations. Within each consultation, the coaches’ objectivity was helpful in countering skepticism, earning stakeholders’ trust in the sponsors and engendering confidence in the process.

The coaches applied advanced questioning techniques and problem-solving methods to draw out areas of consensus, while representatives from several relevant provincial ministries observed and interjected with questions and information of their own. Clear patterns emerged.

The resulting coaches’ report was a comprehensive, draft report of the jurisdiction’s proposed five health goals with supporting logic, data and evidence of stakeholder support.

Stakeholder Consultation – Reviewing Government Policy

A distinguished educational leader was appointed to head a provincial commission of inquiry to review a major government financial policy. The Commissioner and staff were concerned that traditional town hall meetings or citizen submissions would not get to the heart of the complex issues. They engaged a Progress Consulting business improvement coach to design and lead a series of comprehensive consultation activities.

The coach’s objectivity helped to frame complex financial issues in terms that were easily understood by a variety of stakeholders, including those without formal financial training or background.

During each consultation event, the coach applied advanced questioning techniques and problem-solving methods in groups of 25 stakeholders at a time in a dozen consecutive all-day meetings. The Commissioner and expert advisors observed and added their own questions.

The Commissioner said that clear patterns that emerged from these meetings that provided the foundation of his final report. Most participants said the coached events exceeded their expectations in terms of focus, relevance and good use of their time.

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