Ahead of her presentation at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit in Melbourne, March 15 & 16, we sat down with Jo Clancy, Senior Strategy Analyst & Innovation Lead at the Transport Accident Commission, to discuss how innovation drives strategy execution.
Jo Clancy is a lifelong learner driving strategy and innovation across a world leading social insurance scheme. Jo is the Innovation Lead in the corporate strategy team at the Victorian Transport Accident Commission (TAC). The TAC is mid-way through executing the TAC 2020 Strategy. Jo heads up an enterprise-wide Innovation function that drives the execution of TAC’s 2020 strategy. She launched her career as a physiotherapist before working in various health management roles in the UK and US health systems. Upon returning to Australia, Jo branched into business planning, strategy and innovation roles.
What are the main components of a successful business strategy?
1. Being crystal clear on the vision and key purpose of your organization before you embark on any strategy development. This means the 'why' behind what you do for your customers and why you fundamentally exist - these are crucial guiding lights for strategy development. If you don't have it or it's vague and unclear, spend valuable time with your CEO and Executive team to lock this in.
2. Synthesise findings from environmental scanning and customer discovery. The latest research and evidence in your industry and beyond are vital input for strategy development
3. Facilitate, facilitate and facilitate with groups of people from across the organization (and stakeholder outside of it!) to get their input on your growth strategy. Be really open to new ideas or changing direction - it sets up a foundation for engagement and provides tremendously valuable insight
4. Once set, communicate, engage and communicate - you can't do this enough but it cannot be completely up to you. Ensure your organizational leaders are stepping up to this and singing in harmony
5. Now the really hard work begins - cascading your strategy down to the corporate strategic objectives and initiatives to form your corporate business plan. Ensure key success measures are based on OUTCOMES not just milestones and then PRIORITISE. Most organizations don't control the breadth of their strategic intent to enable the right focus for ultimate success.
6. A portfolio management approach can help you organize your strategic initiatives into the right timeframe horizons. This will help you match and refine your organizational resources to the right balance for your strategic vision. Have you got the right focus for the immediate and medium term delivery while keeping a handle on the future horizons? Is it the change that will be necessary for any disruption and future evolution of your industry and organization?
7. Set up a regular and formal review process based on success or outcome measures. This will ultimately assist you and your Executive team to objectively assess your progress (without bias) and make some hard decisions as the strategy is executed, but will be very hard. Building this into an annual strategic review and planning cycle for your company will help to keep up this disciplined approach.
In what ways do you think the role of a strategist is going to evolve/transform in the coming year/ s?
I believe the role of a strategist is going to ramp up in terms of adaptability to change. Developing flexible strategies with key success measures that can be reviewed and refined on a regular basis. Also, a focus on continual scanning and review of rapidly changing circumstances, both internal and external to the company. This is one of the key imperatives for companies to employ innovative approaches for execution of their strategy. Ensuring that they are focussed on rapid experimentation and regular customer feedback provides a great objective platform. Ensure you are using the right data and measures for refining, adding, improving or pivoting your strategic initiatives in adapting to change.
What do you think is the most common mistake strategists are making when it comes to dealing with new technology/innovation?
A common mistake is to focus on the new technology as the source of the innovation rather than start with the customer problem and solution that needs validation. In many circumstances, Initial experimentation should not need to involve any technological or system change until you are able to test and validate the authentic problem and solution. As for the customer - once you have a clear idea of this, you can then iterate pretty rapidly by bringing in technological solutions. I'd recommend one feature at a time so you have objective measures of what actually works! Rather than building in bells and whistles, your customer doesn't actually want or value.
What are some big changes you feel need to be made to the corporate mentality in order to make them more effective at embracing innovation?
Key changes that are needed to embrace innovation at a corporate level are:
1. Leaving behind the focus on a 'business case' with fully assumed 'benefits' articulated for every initiative or a new idea. Instead, have other more flexible ways for your people to obtain seed funding to experiment and try new things. There should still be a focus on objective measurement but different measures to those traditionally sought in business cases like ROI, revenue and or cost indicators etc. Instead, focus more on customer engagement and uptake measures in the early phases.
2. Build in a focus on organizational learning in these seed initiatives so that if they don't hit these customer measures. Ask yourself 'why not?', as it can be really valuable as you seek the next seed initiative that could ultimately be successful.
3) Embrace risk management in these seed initiatives - use early experimentation to test risk in small scale and work out which risk mitigation treatment works the best. This is invaluable if you then want to scale the initiative being fully informed (and being able to communicate this to others) about the risk and reward you are anticipating at scale
What can your audience expect to hear from you in Melbourne?
Expect to hear some practical and tangible ways we have been putting the above into practice. As the TAC has set a new vision and mission and executing its current 2020 strategy, while also looking beyond 2020 to the next strategic horizons!
Hear more from Jo Clancy at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit in Melbourne, March 15 & 16.