Strategy why do we even bother with it?

Have you ever thought, “we’re going alright, what’s the point in developing a new strategy, seems like a waste of time and money”?

We at Bowhill Engineering did, and it nearly cost us big time!

Want to hear our story of un-noticed “fractures” that could have developed, but that we were able to repair and even reinforce through the development of a refreshed strategic plan and BHAG.

Bowhill Eng achieved a successful result on the back of a well-crafted strategic plan which was developed back in 2015, it was a 5-year plan and we had largely achieved the results that we set out to achieve.

When we set the BHAG in 2015 it was an uncomfortable target, to be truthful we didn’t really think we could do it. As it turned out, we were able to bring to life unprecedented growth through some incredible teamwork and commitment of all staff, not to mention the loyalty and ongoing support of our clients and suppliers.

This successful result was realised just before the Covid chaos that hit the world in 2020 and we deliberately chose to postpone the new strategic planning process because “things were going alright, and it would be better to do a refresh when things settle down a bit”.

Unbeknown to us, the early signs of trouble were just around the corner, some staff were feeling the effects of burnout, lack of opportunity, and they weren’t sure what they could do to gain that sense of achievement and to even get a picture of what success looked like.

Regular internal surveys revealed that our prized culture had dipped a bit, staff turnover rates started to increase, it’s true that if action wasn’t taken there’s little doubt that things would have continued to go downhill!

As the Managing Director I’d lost a bit of my own mojo, I craved some direction, I wasn’t in a place to understand what I needed to do to align and inspire everyone again.

What was happening? Why were these “fractures” starting to appear in what has been such a great team?

Our CFO (and my amazing wife) Jodie took the initiative to identify that we needed a refreshed strategy, once it was suggested I too realised that we needed a new strategy.

In hindsight it’s easy to see why we needed an updated strategy, but hindsight is only available after the fact, if we’re not running at 100% it makes it harder to see the things that perhaps you’d normally be able to see.

For us, the development of a new strategy was quite a challenging process, it’s always easy to hear about your organisation’s strengths, no doubt these are relevant to a refreshed plan, but more difficult to have someone point out your “fractures” and gaps in the leadership team.

Kristian Livolsi was chosen as our consultant to help us deliver a new plan, we found him to be very thorough in his preparation leading up to the development of the plan, he interviewed many people both internally and externally to get a good understanding of our current state. For those that know Kristian you’ll understand, he is like no other consultant, his approach was either going to unlock huge potential or tear us apart!

Fortunately, it didn’t tear us apart, the result was that we clearly understood our current strengths, we had a healthy understanding of what our “fractures” were, and we worked together as a leadership team under Kristian’s guidance to identify our opportunities. This set the stage to tie all the gathered information and collective knowledge together to form an inspirational strategy, one that is uniquely suited to Bowhill Engineering, valuable to the industry and our community.

I’ve noticed that the process of developing a strategy with your leadership team unites, excites, energises and aligns like no other process.

We combine knowledge, challenge status quos and buy into what becomes our own unique plan, the intense involvement and transparency of the process allows us to understand why, what we need to do to support it and the commitment levels rise to unprecedented levels.

Leaders feel valued, inspired, they understand the mission and what they need to do to achieve the goals. Burnout is replaced with excitement, and success is clearly defined not just through a long term BHAG, but through medium term goals that are carefully designed to support the desired long-term goal.

It’s easy to believe that things will carry on, that the momentum that was generated during strategy development will perpetuate, but we know that this isn’t the case, in fact the highly renown book Balanced Scorecard authors noted that 90% of organisation fail to execute their strategies successfully.

It takes systems, disciplines, accountability, learning, and leaders that are willing to move outside of their comfort zone to try new things. We are only a few months into our new strategy, we’re under no illusion that this process is straightforward, rather strategies are rarely implemented effectively, desired results are seldom achieved.

But we at Bowhill enjoy the underdog label, we are quietly confident, we will respectfully challenge because we believe in our own and each other’s abilities.

One of the best things to come out of the strategy development is the commitment for each functional area to develop leaders from within. Each leader has been challenged to grow hungry potential leaders into positions that can support growth of their own function and the business as a whole. I believe that leadership effectiveness can be measured by the ability to help those around you grow.

  • Strategy is not something you do when you get around to it.
  • A current plan supported with medium and long tern goals can be a powerful force.
  • Done right, a compelling shared direction can unify, excite and energise an organisation.
  • The challenge of implementation is not to be underestimated; it is best supported by as many people as possible.

Gaps and overlaps in areas of responsibility need to be resolved, they are both dangerous and wasteful and can quickly cause disunity amongst even the greatest team members.

Growth is important to give engaged staff the opportunities to unlock that sense of hope for a better future, to be a part of something special and to provide confidence to customers.

Growth is heavily reliant on how well staff can help those around them to grow in knowledge, confidence and skills.

Jeremy Hawkes

Managing Director