Is your company awash in strategy documents? Strategy documents might include strategic plans, business plans, product strategies, financial forecasts, and current marketing initiatives. All seemingly important, direction-setting documents for running your organization.

It is easy (and happens far too often) for executives to largely ignore the strategy documents and dive right into doing stuff. That is why you hear so often about strategic plans that sit on the shelf unused.

One reason may be that strategic plans are so poorly written.

It is possible though that strategy plans go unused because executives do not know how to read and apply them to better guide and align activities.

Too many strategy documents go unused.

Read a Strategy Document Four Ways

Here are the four must-know ways to read a strategy document. Read it:

  1. Literally - What does the strategy document SAY about what the organization’s intentions are? What important initiatives are planned to make the strategy a reality? What does the strategy suggest the future direction is?
  2. Thematically – What are the major themes suggested within and across strategy documents? Do you see a focused set of themes or are there many diverse ones? Are actions (both those underway and those already completed) consistent with the themes? Are there contradictory themes? If so, what does that suggest about which strategies will predominate?
  3. Collectively – Are there various pieces of the puzzle across strategy documents that fit together? Do the pieces fit together well? Are there opportunities to bring the pieces together in a way that sheds more insight on the organization’s strategic direction and priorities?
  4. Strategically – How strongly are priorities aligned across the various parts of the organization creating these strategy documents? Are there any strategic disconnects that need to be reconciled to achieve success?

What is the benefit of reading a strategy document four ways?

If you apply this discipline, you will develop a stronger sense of the organization’s overall direction, extending to insights that might not be written down anywhere. Not only will you be able to better prioritize current activities, you will be in a much better position to anticipate what the future holds, too. – Mike Brown

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