Jonathan Prosser is the Group GM – Strategy & Business Development at Cronulla Sharks RLFC. His remit is to build a financially sound sporting organisation whilst strengthening the club's position as the beating heart of the community. Innovation is at the core of his approach: as has been seen from recent media coverage outside of the sports pages, the Sharks are doing things differently. He has experience of starting and running small business ventures and remains a mentor for the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship. Prior to the Sharks, he built his skills in Accenture's Strategy Practice in London which included leading two award-winning projects, before being seconded to Accenture's think-tank, the Institute for High Performance. He holds an MA in International Relations from the University of St Andrews who also awarded him a Blue for his contribution to the sport of hockey.
How do you think the role of a strategist is changing?
Strategists come in many shapes and sizes! Certain industries and consulting firms favor deeper industry-specific expertise, whilst other sectors that naturally play in different markets need those who can do likewise. In the discussions, I have and the observations others have commented on, the ability to work end to end is key to take a project from conception to completion. This is particularly true for those working in a 'special projects' type function, as they have been empowered with both the time and the team to create new initiatives that will bring major positive benefit to the organization, and being able to create and then pass the initiative to another department is rarely an option, if a successful outcome is to be achieved.
What do you think are the main components of a successful business strategy?
Firstly, a real point of difference. For instance, take the banking sector in the UK three years ago. Several banks hired the same organizations to help drive the development of their strategies, and the result was a lot of 'man-marking'. Secondly, ensuring that the strategy is orientated around the customer, preferably with input from them is key. Take the guesswork out and ask for their views.
What are the main challenges that companies face, when it comes to strategic execution in 2016?
Political uncertainties are a factor. The US could head in two dramatically different directions, the UK and the EU are unsure of what the future holds, Japan is forecasting a less than 1% GDP increase on last year, Australia has a considerable budget deficit. Business unit strategies and overall corporate strategy need to consider these macro factors, both in the shaping stage and to ensure a degree of flexibility in delivery.
How can companies ensure their strategy is agile?
Stay relevant by testing the direction with both customers/clients/audience, and members of all departments from across the organization. The strategy sets the direction of travel, but avoiding undue turbulence along that journey can be achieved by listening to others.
Do you have any advice for corporate strategy implementation, such as planning, resource management, communication and conflicting priorities?
If all departments and stakeholders are involved in crafting the imperatives, by which all decisions are judged, then you have not only empowered the team to shape the vision and direction of the organization, but you have agreed on the decision-making process. When a decision needs to be made, that brings up conflicting priorities, it can be challenged using this set of imperatives, and those who have to concede, accept that they are doing so to ensure the organization continues to head in the direction that they have helped shape.
You can hear more from Jonathan and other industry leaders at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit, taking place in Sydney this September 6-7th.