A Strategy Deployment Cadence

A Strategy Deployment cadence is the rhythm with which you plan, review and steer your organisational change work. When I blogged about cadence eight years ago I said that…

“cadence is what gives a team a feeling of demarcation, progression, resolution or flow. A pattern which allows the team to know what they are doing and when it will be done.”

For Strategy Deployment, the work tends to be more about organisational improvement than product delivery, although the two are rarely mutually exclusive.

The following diagram is an attempt to visualise the general form of cadence I recommend to begin with. While it implies a 12 month cycle, and it usually is to begin with, I am reminded of the exchange between the Fisherman and the Accountant that Bjarte Bogsnes describes in his book “Implementing Beyond Budgeting“. It goes something like this.

  • Accountant: What do you do?
  • Fisherman: I’m at sea for 5 months, and then home for 5 months
  • Accountant: Hmm. What do you do the other 2 months?

The intent of this Strategy Deployment cadence is not to create another 12 month planning (or budgeting) cycle, but to have a cycle which enables a regular setting of direction and with adjustment based on feedback. How often that happens should be contextual.

Given that caveat lets look at the diagram in more detail.

Planning & Steering

The primary high level cadences are planning and steering, which typically happen quarterly. This allows sufficient time for progress to be made without any knee-jerk reactions, but is often enough to make any necessary changes before they becomes too late. Planning and Steering are workshops where a significant group of people representing both the breadth and depth of the organisation are represented to bring in as much, diversity of experience and opinion as possible. This means that all departments are involved, and all levels of employee, from senior management to front line workers. I have previously described how we did annual and quarterly planning at Rally.

Planning is an annual event 2 day event which answers the following questions:

  • What is our current situation?
  • What aspirations define our ambition?
  • What are the critical challenges or opportunities to address?
  • What strategies should we use to guide decisions?
  • What evidence will indicate our strategies are having an impact?
  • What tactics should we invest in first?

Steering is then a 1 day quarterly event which answers the following questions:

  • What progress have we made towards our aspirations?
  • How effective have our strategies been?
  • What evidence have we seen of  improvement?
  • What obstacles are getting in our way?
  • What tactics should we invest in next?

Thus annual planning is a deep diagnosis and situational assessment of the current state to set direction, aspirations and strategy, while quarterly steering is more of a realignment and adjustment to keep on track.

Learning

The high level tactics chosen to invest in during planning and steering form the basis of continuous learning in Strategy Deployment. It is these tactics for which Backbriefing A3s can be created, and which generate the information and feedback which ultimately informs the steering events. They also form the premise for the more detailed experiments which are the input into the Review events. In the diagram, the large Learn spirals represent these high level tactics, indicating that they are both iterative and parallel.

Reviewing

Reviewing is a more frequent feedback cadence that typically happens on a monthly basis. This allows each tactic enough time to take action and make progress, and still be often enough to maintain visibility and momentum. Reviewing is usually a shorter meeting, attended by the tactics’ owners (and other key members of the tactical teams) to reflect on their work so far (e.g. their Backbriefing A3s and Experiment A3s). In doing so, the Review answers the following questions:

  • What progress have we made?
  • Which experiments have we completed? (and what have we learned?)
  • Which experiments require most attention now?
  • Which experiments should we begin next?

Refreshing

Refreshing is an almost constant cadence of updating and sharing the evidence of progress. This provides quick and early feedback of the results and impact of the actions defined in Experiment A3s. Refreshing is not limited to a small group, but should be available to everyone. As such, it can be implemented through the continuous update of a shared dashboard, or the use of a Strategy Deployment “war room” (sometime called an Obeya) . Thus the Refresh can be built into existing events such as daily stand-up meetings or can be a separate weekly event to answer the following questions:

  • What new evidence do we have?
  • What evidence suggests healthy progress towards our aspirations?
  • What evidence suggests intervention is needed to meet our aspirations?
  • Where do we need to focus and learn more?

In the diagram, the smaller Refresh spirals represent the more detailed experiments, again indicating that they are both iterative and parallel.

The X-Matrix

At the heart is the diagram is an X representing the X-Matrix, which provides the common context for all the cadences. As I have already said, the exact timings of the various events should be tuned to whatever makes most sense. The goal is to provide a framework within which feedback can easily pass up, down and around the organisation, from the quarterly planning and steering to the daily improvement work and back again. This builds on the ideas I first illustrated in the post on the dynamics of strategy deployment and the framework becomes one within which to play Catchball.

What I have tried to show here is that Strategy Deployment is not a simple, single PDSA cycle, but rather multiple parallel and nested PDSA cycles, with a variety of both synchronous and asynchronous cadences. Each event in the cadence is as opportunity to collaborate, learn, and co-create solutions which emerge from the people closest to the problem.

If you would interested in learning more about how I can help your organisation introduce a Strategy Deployment cadence and facilitate the key events, please contact me and I’d be happy to talk.

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