One of the most challenging – if not the most challenging – aspects of a CEO’s tenure is the ability to catalyze an entire organization around its purpose and strategy. The former solidifies value and meaning while the latter dictates priorities, focus, and plans to achieve success.
Knowing that, why is organizational clarity or the ability for individuals to comprehend and act on corporate strategy still a major hurdle? Much of this challenge is directly related to the level of distraction in business and society. Drawing a line of sight between individual employees’ jobs and the marketplace they operate in with the backdrop being the company’s strategy results in a clear picture from which to achieve organizational success.
But what if your business strategy is actually the problem?
A well-known purveyor of fast food, is a case in point. It’s the former CEO who is getting the blame for the company’s sales lump and corresponding stock price decline, which in large part is due to its business strategy. Faced with new and broader competition, the company – which literally invented the fast food industry – had chosen a complex and contradictory strategy that neither played to its strengths nor plotted a new space to occupy. For all intents and purposes, the company tried to be all things to all people; continued to expand an already bloated menu; not properly addressed consumer wants for a legitimate set of healthier choices; and failed to clearly establish a signature menu option.
As such, consumers, critics, employees and the like have attempted to navigate through and around this approach leading to the situation now faced by the company. To prove the point, marketing and communicating effectively against such a distracted strategy has proven even more troublesome.
For this fast food business and companies in similar circumstance, business strategy must be clear, coherent, and directional giving people a pathway to achievement by cultivating the right behaviors including: customers = purchase; consumers = trial; employees = performance; media and influencers = belief.
It must reflect the current reality and avoid being too tethered to history. In this case, the company has millions of customers and brand loyalists looking to be unleashed and a solid track record of innovation to reinvent the entire category. Further, assimilating how the marketplace and workplace react to your strategy is the first indication for how well it is being interpreted, understood, and successfully executed. Unfortunately, the company attempted to execute a strategy that did more to confuse than clarify its ecosystem and paid the price.
Its new CEO will look to reorient the business strategy along the lines of simplification, clarity, and organizational strength including customer insights and innovation. The goal being to re-establish its leadership in the category it created.
It will be interesting to see if such a move directs the business again to a more successful future.