People love to talk about strategy when it comes to business, or anything really. I guess it makes them sound/feel smart. Here we’ll discuss what a “Strategic System of Record” is and how it can be used in a practical way.
Where are your company’s goals and objectives? Where is your company’s strategy? Is it a presentation that is buried in an obscure folder on your laptop? Is it on a shared drive where it will never be seen again? Do you keep track of it in a tool somewhere? How often is it reviewed and discussed?
As your team grows and your business takes on more ambitious goals, managing scale becomes more problematic. What you got away with when you were a 20, 50, or 100 person company (or even bigger) you can’t get away with now, especially with so many of us working remotely. It’s more difficult to manage employees and productivity when you can’t physically see them in the office and peer over their shoulders to make sure they are actually working and not goofing off.
Not having a unified strategy is like a parachute for your business. You are misaligned, rowing in different directions, and it’s a drag. You can literally feel it. You can feel it in your meetings. Your day-to-day communication. Every day has a heavy burden, almost like you are pushing a rock up a hill..
And it’s not because your team isn’t talented or because your products aren’t great. I’m sure they are. It’s because there’s not enough focus and discipline. The priorities aren’t clear. There’s nothing to reference other than trying to recall what was said in the last meeting or town hall. It’s a difficult way to operate, especially for your employees. How confident are you in your team’s ability to effectively prioritize?
In the absence of that documented strategy, everything feels like the most important thing in the world. It’s a quick way to not only burn yourself out but your team as well.
Prioritization is critical. And it’s impossible to prioritize when you don’t know the priorities.
So what’s the solution? We call it your company’s “Strategic System of Record.” In order to achieve this, you need three things.
You need a shared “strategic language.” We believe OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) are the best framework for doing this as it’s simple, measurable, and structured.
You need consistent “strategic training” to ensure everyone (current employees and new ones) are coached and trained on the methodology so it’s used appropriately. If only a fraction of your company uses the “strategic language” correctly, it breaks down.
You need a shared “strategic system” such as an OKR platform. This becomes the centralized location where planning, managing and reviewing strategy takes place. We’re not talking about tracking projects and tasks. We’re not talking about replacing anything other than those pesky untethered documents and presentations. This is a high-level addition to your company’s technology stack. Something easy enough for an executive to use and get value from.
If this is a football analogy the “strategic language” is how you describe your various plays, the “strategic training” is the practice in running those plays, and the “strategic system” is your playbook. When all three are working in unison you are more likely to achieve success and ultimately a victory. This is what we refer to as the “Strategic System of Record.” If one part of this is missing the business can operate, but perhaps not as effective.
Sure, you can go out there with your group and just wing it with the talent you have. Plenty of games have been won that way. But if you want repeatable, consistent, and predictable success which can be optimized over time, the “Strategic System of Record” is the way to go.
By consistently operating within a “Strategic System of Record” it can become a competitive advantage for your business. The businesses which learn the fastest are the ones who are the most successful. If you continue to spin your tires, you aren’t going anywhere. If your meetings are just filled with mindless corporate jargon where you just kick the can down the road and no true value is added, then the same will happen for your business over time – it will become less valuable.
But if you have a vibrant, collaborative, problem/solution-oriented culture that is motivated, excited, and aligned – magic can happen.
And when the above questions are asked about where your strategy is an how it’s doing, instead of not having an answer, the answer should be easy and available in a few clicks. They (you) should be able to say simply, “our strategy is here ——> (with a link to somewhere).” And every person in the company should have access to it. Not just the c-suite or the management team. Everyone. Now obviously there are certain things that should be private, and understandably so, but the vast majority of your company’s strategy should be open, visible, and managed in a single location.
So to recap, the benefits of implementing and rallying around a “Strategic System of Record” are really foundational at this point. There are so many other opportunities to use this as an effective way to onboard, build teams, optimize, learn and grow your people and your business. It all starts with consistency and a framework of referenced accountability. When you take that mindset into each quarter, your ability to win and deliver gets stronger.