Strategic Management

Quality Acceptance Criteria for Strategies and Concepts



Quality acceptance criteria for concept documents in general, and for strategies in particular, are not straightforward for all, behind the typical request of completeness hiding other criteria like flexibility, robustness, predictability, implementable, specificity, fact-based, time-boundedness, clearness, comprehensibility or measurability.

Flexible: once the strategy approved, one must be able to change the strategy as may seem fit, especially to address changes in risks, opportunities, goals and objectives, respectively the identification of new facts. A strategy implies a roadmap on how to arrive from the starting point to destination. As the intermediary or final destinations change, the strategy must reflect these changes (and it’s useful to document these changes accordingly). This also implies that the strategy must be periodically reviewed, the new facts accordingly analyzed and decided whether they must be part of the strategy.
Robust: a strategy must handle variability (aka changes) and remain effective (producing the desired/intended results).

Predictable: the strategy needs to embrace the uncertainty and complexity of the world. Even if one can’t predict the future, the strategy must consider the changes foreseen in the industry and technologies. Is not necessarily about imagining the future, even if this would be ideal, but to consider the current trends in the industry.

Implementable: starting with the goals and ending with the roadmap, the strategy must be realistic and address organization’s current, respectively future capabilities. If the organization need to acquire further capabilities, they need to be considered as well.

Specific: the strategy must address the issues, goals and objectives specific for the organization. As long these are not reflected in it, the strategy is more likely to fail. It is true that many of the issues and goals considered can be met in other organizations, however there are always important aspects that need to be made explicit.

Fact-based: the strategy must be based on facts rooted in internal or market analysis, however the strategy is not a research paper to treat in detail the various concepts and findings — definitions, summaries of the findings with their implications, and references to further literature are enough, if needed.

Time-bound: in contrast to other concepts, the strategy must specify the timeframe considered for its implementation. Typically a strategy addresses a time interval of 3 to 5 years, though upon case, the interval may be contracted or dilated to consider business specifics. The strategy can further break down the roadmap per year or biannually.

Complete: the strategy must be complete in respect to the important topics it needs to address. It’s not only about filing out a template with information, the reader must get a good understanding of what the strategy is about. Complete doesn’t mean perfect, but providing a good enough description of the intent.

Clear: especially when there are competing interests, the strategy must describe what is in scope and what was left out. What was left out is as important as what is considered, including the various presumptions. A test of clearness is whether the why, how, who, when and by what means were adequately considered.

Comprehensible: the targeted audience must be able to read and understand the strategy at the appropriate level of detail or scope.

Measurable: the progress of a strategy must be measurable, and there are two aspects to consider. On one side the goals and objectives considered must be measurable by definition (see SMART criteria), while on the other, one must be able to track the progress and various factors related to it (e.g. implementation costs, impact of the changes made, etc.). Therefore, a strategy must include a set of metrics that will allow quantifying the mentioned aspects.

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