Strategic Pillars

Strategic Pillars: A Tool To Help You Articulate Your Strategy

Strategic Pillars are one of the most popular strategy models used as part of an annual strategic planning process. Put simply, they are the battlegrounds your company must focus on and win. Here you will learn how to create your Strategic Pillars and operationalise their delivery, ensuring there is not a strategy and execution divide. 

How You Are Going To Win

Channelling resources and serving customers better than your competition

Strategic pillars are about channeling your resources towards winning the battles that allow you to serve you customers better than anyone else – and ultimately move closer to your vision.

Why should you dedicate time and energy to discover you strategic pillars? Because at the heart of every inspiring organization is a clear sense of purpose – a ‘why.’ This purpose drives you, and you strategic pillars are a key part of the roadmap that guides you towards it. They represent the key areas that we must excel in to make your vision a reality.

But to identify these pillars, you need to do the necessary work. It requires a deep understanding of your purpose, your vision, your customers, and your competitive landscape. It demands that you ask challenging questions and make difficult decisions.

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Once you identified these strategic pillars, you must focus your resources towards them. You must choose your battles wisely, concentrating your efforts where we can make the most significant impact. This focus allows you to serve our customers better than your competitors and move towards your vision more effectively.

How do we identify our strategic pillars and focus our resources?

You start by understanding your winning aspiration? What do you propose to be best at? Which also means that you need to understand your customers, the value that need from you. What are their needs? How can you serve them better than anyone else? What is your Value Proposition and in what segment is it going to be focused? Answering these questions will help you identify the areas where we need to focus our resources.

You also need to understand your competitive landscape. Who are your competitors? What are they good at? Where are they lacking? This understanding will help us identify where we can excel and differentiate yourself.

Finally, you need to focus your resources. This means making hard decisions. You can’t do everything, so you must choose the battles that we can win and that will make the most significant impact.

Think Of Strategic Pillars As Battlegrounds
You Must Win

Strategic pillars are the key areas of focus or priorities that an organization chooses to achieve its long-term vision. They are also often called ‘Battlegrounds’. 

Strategic themes or pillars are the broad areas of focus that underpin your overall business strategy. They represent the key priorities for your organization over a given period of time — typically one year — and provide guidance on where resources should be allocated.

For example, if one of your strategic pillars was “Simplicity & Value,” then all initiatives related to improving your products would fall under this pillar. This could include things like implementing new features, training staff members on best practices for interacting with customers, or conducting surveys to gather feedback from customers about their experiences.

By defining these overarching themes upfront as part of the planning process, everyone within the organization has clarity around what’s most important at any given moment in time. This helps ensure alignment across teams so that everyone is working towards common objectives rather than pursuing individual agendas.

Put simply, Strategic Pillars are the building blocks upon which your strategy is built, helping to guide decision-making and resource allocation across the business.

How you decide on your pillars is a social process. In and across teams, in the markets you want to play, and for the customers you want to serve in those markets, you need to work out and propose to serve them better than your competition.

To arrive at your objectives that can be clustered and prioritized to form your pillars you should have considered a range of challenging questions, questions like:

  • Customer: What would delight your target customers and how would you do that better than your competition?
  • Advantage: How can you create and sustain a competitive advantage so competitors don’t try to enter your market?
  • Capabilities: What capabilities or competencies do you need to improve or acquire?
  • Issues: What is performing badly, which processes are not working properly, what are the major issues being faced that are holding you back?
  • Opportunities: Which opportunities are being missed?

 

Do’s and don’ts to consider when defining strategic pillars

 

Do’s:

  • Ensure alignment with your organization’s vision, mission, and values.
  • Involve key stakeholders in the process.
  • Make the pillars clear, concise, and actionable.
  • Regularly review and update your strategic pillars based on changes in the business environment.

 

Don’ts:

  • Avoid having too many strategic pillars, as it can dilute focus and resource allocation.
  • Don’t ignore emerging trends or changes in the business environment.
  • Avoid being too vague or overly ambitious in your strategic pillars.
 
 

Strategic Pillar Examples

 

Google

Google’s Strategic Pillars

  • Organize the world’s information.
  • Make it universally accessible and useful.
  • Focus on long-term innovation.

 

Amazon

Amazon’s Strategic Pillars

  • Customer obsession.
  • Long-term thinking.
  • Operational excellence.

 

Microsoft

Microsoft Strategic Pillars

  • Create more personal computing.
  • Reinvent productivity and business processes.
  • Build the intelligent cloud platform.

 

Apple

Apple’s Strategic Pillars

  • Design and innovation.
  • User experience and simplicity.
  • Integration of hardware, software, and services.

 

Tesla

Tesla Strategic Pillars

  • Accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
  • Develop cutting-edge technology.
  • Improve affordability and accessibility of electric vehicles.

 

Airbnb

Airbnb Strategic Pillars

  • Create a sense of belonging.
  • Drive sustainable growth.
  • Foster trust and safety within the platform.

 

IBM

IBM Strategic Pillars

  • Focus on high-value segments of the IT market.
  • Leverage data and AI for business transformation.
  • Deliver innovative solutions through a hybrid cloud platform.
 

Strategic Pillar Recap

Think of Strategic Pillars as the three of four areas of focus your business has decided to focus on as a results of a strategic planning process. They are often referred to as the ‘battlegrounds you must win.

Like all forms of strategy the role of Strategic Pillars is simple. To focus and align the people, productivity and resources in the company on the areas that will help the company maximize growth by serving you target customers better than the competition.

You should see Strategic Pillars are an opportunity to clearly articulate your strategy to your teams so that they might create OKRs that support and align with them – more that that it a moment.

 

Execution is the achilles heel of Strategy

Simply having a strategy is not enough; you need to be able to execute that strategy effectively if you want your business to succeed.

One way of doing this is by using strategic themes or pillars together with OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). In this article, we’ll explore what these terms mean and how they can help you achieve your goals.

Research by Kaplan and Norton found that only 10% of organizations successfully execute their strategies. Organizations should align their strategies with objectives, measures, targets, and initiatives, which in turn can improve execution and overall performance. 

Introduction and Context Setting:

Introduction and Context Setting

  • Briefly explain the purpose and objectives of the workshop.
  • Provide an overview of the current market landscape, competitive dynamics, and industry trends.
  • Discuss the importance of strategy in achieving a sustainable competitive advantage.

 

Analysing Internal Capabilities

Analysing Internal Capabilities

  • Engage the leadership team in a discussion about the company’s unique strengths, core competencies, and resources.
  • Identify any areas of competitive advantage or distinctive capabilities that set the company apart.
  • Consider the team’s perspective on how the company can leverage these internal strengths to create value for customers.

 

Assessing External Opportunities and Threats

Assessing External Opportunities and Threats

  • Encourage the team to explore the external environment, including market trends, customer needs, and emerging opportunities.
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to identify potential areas of growth and challenges.
  • Discuss how the company can align its offerings and value proposition with the identified market opportunities.

 

Defining Strategic Priorities

Defining Strategic Priorities

  • Facilitate a discussion on the team’s vision for the company’s future and its long-term goals.
  • Ask the team to prioritize strategic areas that align with the company’s strengths and market opportunities – Strategic Pillars.
  • Encourage the team to consider trade-offs and make choices regarding where to focus resources and efforts.

 

Crafting a Value Proposition

Crafting a Value Proposition

  • Help the team articulate a clear and compelling value proposition that resonates with customers and differentiates the company from competitors.
  • Guide the team in identifying the unique benefits, features, and experiences that the company can deliver to its target customers.

 

Formulating Actionable Strategies

Formulating Actionable Strategies

  • Facilitate the development of specific strategies and initiatives to achieve the defined strategic priorities.
  • Encourage the team to think creatively and explore innovative approaches.
  • Discuss potential risks and challenges associated with each strategy and explore mitigation plans.
  • ZOKRI guides and platform the outcomes from these conversations.

 

Establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Metrics

Establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Metrics

  • Work with the team to define measurable objectives and key results that align with the strategic priorities.
  • Identify appropriate KPIs and metrics to track progress and evaluate the success of the strategies.
  • Discuss how the team can implement a system for ongoing monitoring, measurement, and adjustment based on performance data
  • ZOKRI will platform this for you.

 

Alignment and Execution

Alignment and Execution

  • Emphasize the importance of aligning the entire organization around the strategic priorities.
  • Discuss ways to communicate and cascade the strategy throughout the company.
  • Agree the values and behaviours that need to be lived in order to ensure that your vision, strategy and goals are going to be achieved.
  • Explore methods for fostering accountability, collaboration, and a culture of strategic execution
  • All of this is done in ZOKRI

 

Continuous Learning and Adaptation

Continuous Learning and Adaptation

  • Highlight the need for ongoing learning, feedback loops, and adaptation in today’s dynamic business environment.
  • Encourage the team to develop mechanisms for collecting feedback, learning from failures, and making strategic adjustments as necessary – this is automatically done in ZOKRI.

 

Wrap-up and Next Steps

Wrap-up and Next Steps

  • Summarize the key outcomes and action items from the workshop.
  • Discuss next steps for further refining and communicating the strategy.
  • Offer ongoing support and guidance as needed.

What are OKRs?

OKROKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. These are specific targets set by an organization which define measurable outcomes required for success against each objective identified during goal setting sessions. The OKR framework is adept at acting as a strategy execution framework.

The purpose behind creating OKR’s is twofold: firstly it provides directionality toward achieving desired results while secondly providing transparency into progress made along those lines throughout execution phases thereby enabling course correction when necessary based upon feedback received from stakeholders.

 

What Are KPIs?

KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are metrics that help you track progress towards your goals. They provide a way to measure the success of specific initiatives and ensure that they’re aligned with broader strategic objectives.

For example, if one of your strategic pillars was “employee engagement,” then some potential KPIs might include things like employee satisfaction scores, turnover rates among high-performing employees (indicating retention), or productivity levels across different departments within the organization.

By tracking these key performance indicators over time and comparing them against benchmarks set by industry standards or internal targets established during goal setting sessions held annually between management team members such as CEO’s/COO’s/CFO’s etc., department heads/managers/supervisors/team leads etc., it becomes possible to identify areas where improvements can be made in order to achieve desired outcomes more effectively while also providing transparency into progress being made along those lines throughout execution phases thereby enabling course correction when necessary based upon feedback received from stakeholders

 

How Do Strategic Themes/Pillars Work With OKRs And KPIs To Execute Your Strategy?

Strategic themes/pillars work together with OKRs and KPI’s because they provide directionality toward achieving desired results while simultaneously ensuring alignment across teams so everyone is working towards common objectives rather than pursuing individual agendas.

OKR’s define measurable outcomes required for success against each objective identified during annual goal-setting sessions held between management team members such as CEO’s/COO’s/CFO’s etc., department heads/managers/supervisors/team leads etc.. This provides clarity around what needs doing at any given moment in time which helps keep everyone focused on their respective tasks without getting sidetracked by other priorities competing for attention elsewhere within an organization.

Finally, using relevant data points tracked via various types of software tools enables organizations not only monitor but also analyze trends related specifically back down through all levels of management hierarchy thereby enabling course correction when necessary based upon feedback received from stakeholders.

In conclusion, using strategic themes or pillars together with OKRs and KPIs is an effective way to execute your strategy because it provides directionality toward achieving desired results while simultaneously ensuring alignment across teams so everyone is working towards common objectives rather than pursuing individual agendas.

By tracking progress against these metrics over time, organizations can identify areas where improvements need to be made in order to achieve their goals more effectively which ultimately leads them closer towards success!