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Growth Strategy Framework: Focused, Random or No Growth at All?

Growth Strategy Framework: Focused, Random or No Growth at All?

2 Focused Approaches from Yeti and McDonald’s (Plus 1 Random “Strategy”)

What’s your brand’s starting point for its growth strategy framework?   We’ve noted a number of answers to the growth strategy framework question from leaders in the past 18 months, including:

  • Focused growth strategy  1: Focus on Core products and “Double Down on the 3 D’s: Digital, Delivery and Drive Thru): McDonald’s
  • Focused growth strategy 2: Reach new customers with new distribution channels and expand into new product categories: Yeti
  • Random growth strategy 3: Develop specific product applications for customers in multiple markets to prove viability, learn fast and move on (aka, throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks): Startup food innovation company

Other leaders are occupied with working “in the business” to triage talent shortfalls, adapt to supply chain disruption, work effectively with a remote and/or hybrid team, navigate supplier cost volatility and/or manage their own price increases.  These individuals are not making the time to step back and work “on the business” to develop a forward-looking growth strategy framework.   

Overall, the impression we’ve gained is that many organizations are lagging or behind on updating their growth strategy, or perhaps lack a growth strategy altogether. 

Starting Growth Strategy Framework Development: the Role of the Core Team

A typical brand’s growth strategy framework development process will start with the creation of a growth strategy core team. This core growth strategy team has a number of responsibilities, such as:

  • aligning organization and stakeholders on the timeline and goals
  • outlining the steps needed to develop the growth strategy
  • recruiting the needed resources (including internal and external resources like consultants)
  • managing the timeline and communication to stakeholders, including board presentations

The core growth strategy team does much of the “heavy lifting” to prepare for growth strategy work sessions and make the time spent working together on the growth strategy as productive as possible. 

Starting Growth Strategy Framework Development: Situation Assessment Fact Base

At Insight to Action, we’re big believers in having core and extended team members create a robust situation analysis and market outlook prior to coming to the meeting.   Along with the situation assessment, each participant will be asked to articulate growth hypotheses.  

A recent situation assessment outline included the following components.  The first nine are the focus of the situation assessment, while the last five are output of the growth strategy framework that are developed and refined in the worksesssions.

  1. External assessment key findings: US market size, US market growth, key segments
  2. External assessment: drivers of demand (what are the factors that are driving demand?)
  3. External assessment: channels (size, growth)
  4. External assessment: competitors (financial and unit results, capacity, cost/lb., product and pricing, customers and sales, SWOT)
  5. External assessment: 4 P’s summary (product, place, promotion, pricing)
  6. External assessment: 5 C’s summary (category, consumers, customers, channels, competition)
  7. Internal assessment: company results: $, units, CAGR, P&L
  8. Internal assessment: capabilities
  9. Internal assessment: SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats)
  10. Vision including BHAG, values, customer, product
  11. Financial objectives 2021-2026
  12. Most important strategies
  13. Strategy detail pages
  14. Summary on a page

Often, the core growth strategy team will work with line executives to refine this situation assessment.   We’ll work with the team to agree on a starting template to use for the situation assessment.

Starting Growth Strategy Framework Development: Offsite Growth Strategy Summit Worksessions

Once the fact base basics are in place, it’s been typical to have an offsite summit with the organizational cross functional team to focus on the integration and trade-offs that are required for a disciplined growth strategy. This summit is typically one to three days in length. 

We recommend having a professional facilitator moderate the meetings with the team to allow all to participate.  The objective should be to develop a starting growth strategy framework.  

Key components of the growth strategy summit:

  1. Situation assessment sharing:  Each line of business to share their situation assessment and summary.  The purpose is to get all the participants on the same page with regards to the external market and internal situation. If there are areas of question or gaps, those should be highlighted and moved to a “parking lot” list, so they do not derail the meeting.  This could be done in the afternoon before the start of the strategy development session.
  2. Brain walking on the key strategies and related initiatives.  Brain walking requires all participants to get up and out of their seats and actively participate and collaborate. We recommend using flip chart paper and physical moving around rather than sitting and passing paper around. This is a highly-productive exercise and ideally is done at the beginning of the day.
  3. Vision exercise in pairs or triads.  While some are able to work well independently, many executives work better in pairs or triads with others to bounce ideas off of.   Each pair or triad will take some time to develop the starting vision, and then share with the group.
  4. Selection of the starting most relevant vision, strategies, and initiatives.  Dot voting can be used, or typed notes with a number for each idea can be distributed for the team to select from.  Before the group breaks up, it’s helpful to recap the summary.   The expectation is for further vetting and changes after the meeting.

After further refinement, the end output can be summarized in a one-page growth strategy framework shown below. This powerful growth strategy framework was developed by Peter Klein, CEO of PK Associates.

Growth Strategy Framework: Focused, Random or No Growth at All?

Starting Growth Strategy Framework Development: Scheduling the Growth Strategy Worksessions

In the past 18 months, since the impact of COVID, it’s been difficult for many organizations to schedule growth strategy meetings with their cross-functional leadership teams.

There are many reasons for this, but one basic reason is that the larger team needed for the growth strategy worksesssions may not be back at work regularly and/or able to set aside time to meet offsite.   

While estimates vary, Gallup found that 72% of white-collar workers worked remotely from October 2020 to April 2021.  There is progress on the “return to work” front. As of late July 2021,  63% of adults said they had visited their place of work in the past 24 hours.  

We’ve come across several examples of organizations that had already planned growth strategy worksessions over the next few months, but had to cancel.  These include:

  1.  A Santa Monica-based technology company canceled their growth strategy leadership retreat planned for October 2021 in an abundance of caution.  This caution arose not from an “outbreak” or number of cases, but from one executive contracting COVID at an offsite event, despite being immunized. 
  2. A California-based food company who initially attempted to schedule its growth strategy offsite with 12 participants in May 2021.  After that was not possible, the firm agreed to dates in early August, but then had to cancel these in July in light of the Delta variant.   As of this writing, dates for the growth strategy summit worksession are under consideration for October.  If those dates prove infeasible, then most likely the meetings will need to occur in 2022.

If your brand has completed a growth strategy framework in the past year, we’d love to learn about how you overcame the challenges around focus and prioritization, along with logistics. 

More case studies (e.g., Driscoll’s, Crocs, Gruma) and resources on growth strategy are available at the resources page.  Or contact us to start a collaboration today.