7 Steps to Make Your Growth Strategy More than the Sum of its Cross-Functional Parts
If your organization needs to develop a powerful growth strategy framework, a typical starting point for many is to assemble a cross-functional team to tackle this important task.
While this varies by industry and organization, the cross-functional team leaders that we frequently see at the growth strategy table include:
- Engineering and technology
- Innovation and research and development (R&D)
- Customer insights, a.k.a. market research
- Supply chain and procurement
Depending on the organization, leaders from other areas may also be critical contributors to the growth strategy framework. These include:
- Human resources
- Real estate
- Customer service
- Strategy, business development, partnerships
A typical initial approach is for each area to perform a situation assessment, and identify top priorities to drive growth.
How Growth Strategy Framework Works in Practice
Let’s look at how this type of approach might unfold, with each area focusing on a component of the growth strategy framework. For example, sales leadership may focus their growth strategy framework assessment on customers. In some cases, these customers are retailers, (e.g., Walmart, Amazon, Kroger). In other situations, the sales leader may focus on intermediary business to business (B2B) customers. A good example of this is in foodservice, where there are a number of large distributors, such as Sysco, US Foods or Ben E. Keith.
Coming out of the situation assessment, the sales organization will typically provide an outlook on the customer or customer segments that will provide the most growth, along with the support needed (e.g., products, services, dedicated teams, etc.) to capture the growth.
Once all the individual areas weigh in, your organization might have anywhere from nine to 17 different functional leaders, each contributing growth strategy framework recommendations from their own lens. Each area can be expected to advocate for investment and growth initiatives that make sense.
While some functions may elect to work together due to reporting relationships and areas of overlap (e.g., finance and accounting), the end product of assembling the large number of components together will be unwieldy at best. More likely, it will be inconsistent and even contradictory.
It Doesn’t Have to Be this Messy
How do you make your growth strategy framework greater than the sum of the parts? Set the time aside with the right team leads.
Historically, a proven technique was to assemble the cross-functional team, often offsite, for a day or several days to share their individual outputs from the first phase of situation assessment. Through the dialog, and often with skilled facilitation, integrated growth strategy initiatives would begin to emerge.
Did COVID Interrupt Your Growth Strategy Framework?
I am doubtful that the cross-functional collaborative in-person approach has been practiced by many teams in the past year. I’ve consistently heard from executives that their leadership team working remotely during COVID has proven problematic for innovation and growth strategy collaboration. Despite considerable effort at communication, the reality is that many executives have been working in greater isolation, and with less day-to-day collaboration. The lack of a shared experience base increases the likelihood of a sub-par growth strategy framework.
7 Steps to a Powerful Growth Strategy Framework
Ultimately, the growth strategy framework needs to come together in an integrated fashion, and we’re starting to see some leadership teams planning offsite meetings to focus on growth strategy.
These are the seven steps Insight to Action advocates for a successful growth strategy:
- Clarify the objectives and what success will look like for the growth strategy. Clearly understand the level of resources and investment the organization is committing to the strategy.
- Carefully assemble the growth strategy team. Not all of the cross-functional players will need to play a “heavy lifting” role. Some may be stakeholders who can provide input and check in at key junctures.
- Design and tailor a growth strategy framework development process that is more than a one day “one off.” Dedicate sufficient time for the team to complete the tasks. Architect the team and roles of the participants during collaborative work sessions.
- Build and share a fact base about the most important drivers of growth. Without a shared fact base, it will be difficult if not impossible for the team to align. In the words of one of my consulting partners,
- “It is a bankrupt approach to put a team in a room for a day without a robust fact base and then commit to strategies that come out of the meeting.”
- Enlist an expert facilitator, most likely from outside the organization. If instead you ask an internal leader to be the facilitator, recognize that this means they cannot participate as a contributor and at the same time be focused on facilitation. Other benefits of using an expert facilitator include experience, objectivity and effectiveness.
- Deploy techniques that help overcome functional area focus. For instance, ask teams to set the growth strategy challenge aside, and use an analogy exercise. The approach is to identify brands or organizations that excel in a given benefit area that is important to the strategy. For instance, a team might focus on customer strategy and look at how Nordstrom’s excels at customer service, with its rule of “use good judgment in all situations.”
- After the initial growth strategy is developed, pressure test and vet the opportunities. Summarize the growth strategy on one page and share.