September 25, 2023

Implementing a Company Strategy Into Your Organization

Implementing a Company Strategy Into Your Organization

Implementing a Company Strategy Into Your Organization

Jake Dluhy-Smith

CEO, Co-Founder

Operating a company without a strategy is like traveling to a foreign destination without a map. You might get there over time, but chances are, the ones with the map will get there faster. Most founders, including myself, learn this lesson over time, but the sooner they learn it the better it is for their business. Here is how my leadership team and I created that map for ourselves and set up the strategic framework for OAK’S LAB. I hope it gives you insight and inspires you to level up the maturity of your own organization.

The Problem

During the first few years of running OAK’S LAB, it felt like we were in survival mode every day. Having no VC backing didn’t make it any easier. Continuous existential challenges hindered our business, and my leadership team was bogged down plugging holes instead of shaping the company for the future. We were an uncoordinated company focused on short-term problems rather than long-term opportunities. And as we grew, we needed a change in our approach.

As CEO, I had a vision for the future of my company. What I was missing was the framework to clearly visualize my thoughts and give my team the necessary direction. Fortunately, my CFO, Martin Klikar, spotted the issue as well, and together we came up with a plan to implement a strategic framework.

Our aim was to translate my vision for the company into actionable steps, track and manage our performance, and visualize our progress along the way for our entire team to see. Especially because OAK’S LAB is a small business of 75 team members, it was crucial for me to build our strategy from the ground up and have everyone involved.

The Solution

We were inspired by the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) goal-setting framework, as well as Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard model, and evolved them to fit our needs as a global startup builder operating in a hybrid work environment. Since implementing our strategic framework, OAK’S LAB has matured into a company with a clear focus and a happy, engaged team. I now have the infrastructure to work with my leadership team to set the direction and focus on the most important things while involving everyone in the company in the process.

The impact of our strategic framework has been so rewarding that I would like to share it with the world to help other founders improve the way they run their businesses.

Before I get into the details, I have a big disclaimer. Every company is different. There are so many things that make companies unique: different types of leaders, different types of employees, different organizational structures, and the list goes on. The model I am sharing is definitely not a silver bullet or a “one-size-fits-all” solution. That said, I do believe our model is worth sharing and many may find inspiration in it.

Our Company Strategic Framework

Four components that make up our strategic framework and the process we follow to keep it up-to-date.

1. Vision, Enhanced Vision, & Mission
The leadership team first aligned on these three elements. Our vision explains what we want OAK’S LAB to become in the distant future. Our enhanced vision consists of guiding principles that further describe our desired state of OAK’S LAB, and our mission defines our purpose. These statements are what ultimately drive us as a company.

Ready to craft your own guiding statements? Dive into our comprehensive guide on How to Set Your Startup's Mission and Vision for step-by-step insights and best practices.

2. Strategic Goals & Measures
Supporting these statements are the strategic goals we want to achieve and the specific measures that allow us to see if we’ve achieved them. Our goals are grouped into four main categories.

  • Internal resources: Goals we want to achieve that have an impact on our people and other internal assets. Internal resources are the instruments through which we achieve our vision. This is why we create goals to fulfill their potential and increase their value.
  • Internal processes: Goals we want to achieve that have an impact on our internal know-how and operations. Internal processes are the way we utilize our internal resources and maximize their value.
  • External relationships: Goals we want to achieve that have an impact on our external environment, partners, and clients. The success of our goals in the external relationships category heavily depends on the quality level of our internal resources and processes.
  • Financials: Goals we want to achieve in our financial performance. The goals in the previous categories should have their relevant monetary expression in this section.

Think of each strategic goal as links on a chain that heavily depend on each other in order to be complete. If your internal resources are in top shape and the internal processes are maximizing their potential, you should be adding value to your external relationships and having great financial outcomes for your business while keeping your internal resources nurtured.

Detail of our company strategic goals and measures in a Google Sheet structure.

Every strategic goal that we set is connected to one of our enhanced vision principles, which drives our vision and mission forward, and has at least one measure with a target, actual score, deadline, and accountable person from our leadership team. Depending on its ambition, the goals have a deadline of anywhere between 1 and 10 years into the future.

One additional advantage of grouping our strategic goals and measures into different categories is that through the internal resources, processes, and external relationships, we can now track non-monetary measures that serve as indicators of the company’s performance. Since monetary measures tend to be an expression of a company’s past performance, tracking the non-monetary measures provide us with insight into the company’s performance prior to becoming a financial result. This allows us to react and still have a positive influence on the company’s performance before it translates into a financial result.

When the leadership team set our first company strategic goals, we held a company-wide strategy day for our team members to evaluate internal factors (processes and resources) and external factors (the macro- and micro-environment) and performed a SWOT analysis to review our company’s current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. With these initial inputs from the whole company, the leadership team was able to craft our strategic goals and measures.

3. Annual SWOT Analysis
To assess not only how we are performing against our goals but also where we see the need for any shift in strategy, we host a company-wide strategy day on an annual basis.

During this day, our company reevaluates the internal and external factors, and together, we perform another SWOT analysis to review the current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Company-wide SWOT survey results.
Key takeaways from the strategy day for each quadrant.

With the SWOT analysis complete, our leadership team then dives deeper and selects the top points from each SWOT quadrant that we would like to explore in our strategy. We assign relevant SWOT points to the relevant leaders, and each leader then proposes enhancements to our strategic goals and measures if needed. As a leadership team, we review all proposed enhancements, update our strategic goals and measures, and share the revised version with the rest of the company.

With this annual analysis, we are able to react to any changes in our environment and make strategic shifts that will keep us aligned, and it is still driven by all of our team members.

4. OKRs (Objectives & Key Results)
OKRs are a short-term, goal-setting methodology that we use to break down our strategic goals and measures into smaller scopes of work that our team focuses on each quarter.

We set company objectives on a quarterly basis, and each objective has multiple key results. Each key result is connected to a specific strategic goal and measure in our company strategy. Then, on a department level, every department head sets objectives with key results that are connected to the company OKRs and thus also connected to the strategic goals and measures in our strategy.

Overview of our company OKRs in a Google Sheet structure.

On a quarterly basis, I create a draft of the company OKRs and share it with the leadership team. They discuss the department OKRs that they will set with their department. Throughout the process, my leadership team comes back to me with proposed adjustments to the company OKRs to ensure our team has the chance to identify any missing connections between their work and our strategic goals and measures. Supporting the OKRs are our team’s everyday tasks that work toward completing each specific OKR.

The process we follow to set our company OKRs.

5. Values
Underneath it all and supporting the entire framework are our values. Having strong values and a company culture that is aligned with our ambitions in our strategy is integral for everything to work in harmony. We brought together the entire company to create five values that we believe are behaviors that we should live by every day in order to achieve our vision.

By involving everyone in the company we got input from our entire team, which in turn gave everyone in the company a personal connection to each value. Our values aren’t just posters on a wall; they are a mechanism we use to give each other feedback and hold each other accountable to the standards required to achieve our ambitions together.

The process we follow to keep our company strategy up-to-date.

Final Thoughts

We tailored this strategic framework directly to our business. And it’s working. Every action on each level reflects our company values and pushes us towards our mission and vision, and yours should do the same.

Setting the strategy is the easy part. Executing against it and maintaining it is where the hard part starts. It requires relentless consistency to keep all components up-to-date, company-wide transparency to keep everyone on the same page, and, most importantly, it has to be the number one priority for the leadership team.

From my personal experience, I can say it is all worth it. Implementing a solid framework for managing the company strategy was the main initiative that evolved OAK’S LAB from a chaotic startup to a mature business with a clear focus driven by all our team members.

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