Our Proven Process to Unite Teams and Set the Stage for Growth
A growth strategy template is a useful tool for any team who is developing a three to five-year growth strategy. Completing the template, or as we call it “populating” the template gives confidence that many, if not all, of the important elements to be addressed are included.
There are 12 steps in the Insight to Action growth strategy template process.
Growth Strategy Template Step 1: Architect the Growth Strategy Team
Identify the individuals responsible to lead the core growth strategy development as well as the members of the core team. In addition to the core team, identify the relevant sponsors and stakeholders who will contribute to the strategy and/or approve the strategy but not be involved in each core team meeting. Gain agreement on the time commitment required from the core team, stakeholders, and sponsors.
Growth Strategy Template Step 2: Prioritize Growth Strategy Questions
Identify and gain agreement on the most important questions that the growth strategy needs to address. These are questions that must be answered in order for the strategy to be adopted by the organization. If there is a ‘laundry list’ of questions, challenge the core team to prioritize them, e.g., “A”, “B,” and “C” priority.
For example, one of the client executives we are working with currently on a three to five-year growth strategy recently reminded the core team to,
“Begin with the end in mind, that is, how will our company win?”
This was a good reminder to focus on the end goal and objective from the beginning of the work.
Typical growth strategy questions about the market will include:
- the definition of the market
- current market size and historical size and growth
- drivers of the market growth
- current competitors and their position in the market
- industry profit pools
- customer segments
- the market’s projected growth going forward
Growth Strategy Template Step 3: Create a Growth Strategy Template in Powerpoint
In one of my first assignments at Booz Allen & Hamilton, the strategy consulting team developed a storyline of pages with headlines and supporting graphics on a white board, which was a first-step growth strategy template. In this case, the client was a B2B company that made electrical connectors, and we worked together with them to create a three to five-year strategy.
In the past decade, Powerpoint has become the standard for how most clients communicate growth strategy, so creating a growth strategy template in Powerpoint is required. The white board storyline can be a good first step, but this then needs to be translated into Powerpoint.
The focus at this step should be a working outline, not a highly-polished document. While there are risks with using Powerpoint, such as an over-focus on producing documents rather than thinking, it can be helpful as long as focus is kept on answering the core questions.
Growth Strategy Template Step 4: Capture Hypotheses on Growth Strategy Options from Stakeholders, Sponsors, and Core Team
A typical approach we use is to surface the hypotheses through a combination of individual interviews focused around the core questions, along with structured ideation or brainstorming sessions with groups. We then summarize the hypotheses that emerge. We carefully avoid attributing the hypotheses to individuals who suggested them in an effort to keep the organization as open-minded as possible to the ideas. These approaches are highly effective to identify and capture starting hypotheses.
Moving outside the organization to include suggestions from creative customers and experts from inside and outside the industry can also be very helpful. For example, when working on a growth strategy for the GUM oral care brand, we used three approaches to identify starting hypotheses:
- in-depth conversations with target customers
- an ideation session with ten experts from a range of industries
- an ideation session that mixed customers and experts
Growth Strategy Template Step 5: Gather Secondary Data and Leverage Reports and Studies Available to Address the Priority Questions
Before starting any new primary research, we review available secondary research, and leverage reports and studies. There typically are industry organizations that publish key reports for their members. For instance, in the foodservice industry, the International Food Manufacturers Association, IFMA, has a wealth of resources online for its members.
When I started at Booz Allen & Hamilton, there were full-time research librarians on staff to conduct literature searches of databases such as LexisNexis. While there are many specialized resources available for purchase, we no longer work with research librarians. There is a wealth of information available online from focused Google searches. For example, in one growth strategy study for a healthy ingredient, we were able to readily find customer initiatives in the area of sodium reduction, which was the area of focus for major customers like Nestle and Subway.
Growth Strategy Template Step 6: Meet as a Core Team to Review the Summarized Data
This meeting can be done using a draft populated Powerpoint template or an Excel spreadsheet. When possible, we’d recommend starting with the Excel spreadsheet to focus on the data, rather than the visualization. However, many corporate managers feel more comfortable viewing the information in Powerpoint. If that is case, the team will need to create a populated draft in Powerpoint.
The focus of this review should be on what was learned from the data that addressed the key questions and to identify gaps in the knowledge and deeper areas to probe. It’s helpful to pay particular attention to data that is contradictory or counterintuitive to avoid thinking traps and confirmation bias. The goal is to remain open-minded. It can also be the case that the data is wrong, for instance, an outlier has skewed the results, or they are taken out of context.
Growth Strategy Template Step 7: Reframe Growth Strategy Hypotheses with First-Cut Factbase Review Completed
We find it helpful to review the data on one day, and then hold a follow-up meeting the next day that focuses on emerging growth strategies from the data. As a client at The Weather Channel observed, trying to do all this in one meeting is like “drinking from the fire hose.”
Make sure the second session happens soon after the first one. If too much time elapses between meetings, the shared factbase from the first day may be forgotten.
Growth Strategy Template Step 8: Assign Resources to Fill in any Important Data Gaps Before Testing Growth Strategy Options with Customers and Prospects
Assign resources to rapidly address any critical data gaps or follow-ups coming out of the growth strategy team meeting and template review. Update the template to reflect the information that is found, and alert the team if there are any issues that are deal breakers to prevent moving forward with primary customer research in Step 9.
Growth Strategy Template Step 9: Develop Stimulus for the Growth Strategy Options and Test Starting Ideas with Target Customers and Prospects.
Because Insight to Action focuses on market-driven or “inside out” strategy, we recommend testing the emerging growth strategy options with target customers and prospects. This can be done in the form of benefit statements with specific actions that deliver the benefits. Before testing with customers, the options typically undergo a technical, legal and regulatory review for feasibility.
Working with target customer and prospects, along with the core team and creative resources, we optimize the benefit statements between exposures based on customer feedback, and add and drop ideas iteratively. After this process is completed, the most customer-appealing options are ready for further validation and prioritization.
Growth Strategy Template Step 10: Vet Growth Strategy Options with Internal Experts
Internal experts assess the growth strategy options to identify resources required to deliver the actions and benefits. Based on this assessment, there may be ideas that are dropped or reprioritized. Update the growth strategy template to reflect this work.
Growth Strategy Template Step 11: Core Team Review the Growth Strategy Template and Recommendations
The core team meets to go through the now fully completed growth strategy template. At this point, the Powerpoint will be fairly polished with clear communication and summarization.
Growth Strategy Template Step 12: Core Team Meets with Executive Stakeholders or Board
The core team presents to the executive stakeholders or board the completed growth strategy template. At this point, the desired outcome is approved for some or all of the recommendations.
Depending on the executive audience, there often are additional meetings at interim checkpoints to ensure alignment, for instance in Step 1 (approving questions), Step 4 (providing hypotheses), and Step 7 (reviewing/approving strategy approaches).