QuoLuxTM b-corp

Simplifying Strategy for Effective Operations

Often, we make strategy more complicated than it needs to be. The true value of reviewing and rethinking strategy lies in bringing clarity to everyone in the organisation. Simplifying strategy can enhance focus and drive, helping teams understand their roles and responsibilities better.

Emphasising the Positive in Strategy

Many strategists argue that defining "what we don’t do" is as important as defining "what we do." While this can be helpful, it's crucial to emphasise the positive aspects of strategy. Richard Boyatzis and his colleagues, in their book Coaching with Compassion, highlight the importance of Positive Emotional Attractors (PEAs). They suggest that maintaining a positive and realistic vision is key to motivation. In tough times, leaders might be tempted to use Negative Emotional Attractors (NEAs) to ensure compliance, but this approach can undermine motivation and engagement.

Clarifying Focus

Operationally, the current situation can be effectively managed by proactively clarifying which activities will be prioritised and which will not continue. This clarity helps align efforts and resources with strategic goals.

Revisiting Customer Outcomes

One way to develop your PEAs is by revisiting your customers' outcomes. Ask yourself: What difference do you make for your customers? What is the customer outcome (what they truly value) versus your output (what they are paying for)?

For example, at Cranfield School of Management, we recognised that students were paying for a Master’s degree in Management but were buying confidence to advance their careers. This shift in perspective highlights the need to reallocate resources, understanding that change often brings resistance. Acknowledging this and clearly articulating the strategy is the first step.

Operations Strategy: Product, Process, and People

When developing an operations strategy, consider Product, Process, and People:

1. Product: Articulating the customer outcome is a major part of the product strategy. It's a crucial conversation between Marketing and Operations, especially when there may be underutilised capabilities within Operations.

2. Process: Using the classification of Runners, Repeaters, and Strangers, investigate whether more processes can be standardised (Runners). This can lead to more efficient production and delivery, especially important for organisations with reduced capacity.

3. People: Telling the positive story of Operations Strategy is vital for building engagement. Employee engagement is linked to the discretion they feel they are given. Traditionally, Operations have focused on compliance and process ownership. However, enabling key operations people to operate in complex problem-solving areas is crucial. This requires a leadership style that balances clear vision with coaching and support.

Figure 1:  Employee Discretion 


The Importance of Clear Focus in Operations

Operations implement strategy and manage the majority of resources. Therefore, it's essential to clarify "what Operations must do well." Now is a good time to restate the focus for operations based on a revised assessment of customer outcomes. Operations can lose focus over time, so it's important to determine the primary focus among cost, quality, speed, dependability, and flexibility. Additionally, consider adding sustainability, customer relationship development, and innovation to this core list.


Creating and implementing a new Operations strategy is challenging but also provides opportunities for improvement. By simplifying strategy, emphasising the positive, and focusing on key aspects of Product, Process, and People, organisations can build effective strategies that engage and motivate their teams.

Good luck!

Graham Clark


Final Thoughts

Graham Clark is one of our guest masterclass speakers. If you are interested in hearing from him or learning more about developing yourself and your organisation to improve leadership, business performance, and team engagement, please contact us here.

Our next effective leadership and business strategy program for senior leaders (LEAD™) starts on November 7th and 8th 2024.


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