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Optimising Investment to Realise Strategic Intent

General Challenge

Any enterprise that is serious about continuing to thrive in fulfilling its purpose will seek to invest its limited resources in actions that best realise its strategic intent. In making investments decision-makers must assess the advocacy of department heads against enterprise level intent. The weaker each advocate's argument, the more robust tends to be the advocate’s attitude. Decision-makers need taut arguments and a means of scoring proposed actions to optimise their investment against their strategic intent.

Particular Challenge

The client’s Business Unit Directors regularly assessed the gap between the capability they forecast to have into the future and the plausible futures in which they have to realise the enterprise’s strategic intent. Directors propose investments to:

  1. optimise the employment of the capability they have;

  2. optimise interventions in the capability change programmes already in flight;

  3. exploit the capability their strategic partners expect to have; and

  4. launch new capability change programmes.

Whilst directors can appeal to investors for new money, they will gain a better hearing if they first appraise the investments already made in terms of their contribution to minimizing future strategic risk, and redirect these investments where the best contribution is made.

In common with the strategy function in many enterprises, the staff the client assigned to planning were generalists called into this role for a tour of about two years. Whilst their operational expertise was invaluable, the link between their judgement as operators and the evidence amassed in the planning was often opaque, with the result that their investment arguments were less taut than was needed to balance investments between them. They needed a taut process and tools to enable them to craft defensible investment arguments to best realise the strategic intent entrusted to them.

The Solution

The objective of the intervention was to tighten the client’s investments in terms of:

  • Argument – compelling logic derived from defensible rigorous analysis of the evidence;

  • Alignment – traceable between strategic intent and the courses of action being proposed;

  • Agility – crafting actions that allow sufficient room to respond to unforeseen change;

  • Assurance – traceable and taut logic between actions, decisions, arguments and evidence.

Focusing on argument, the intervention equipped planners to:

  1. identify the causes of gaps between the capability they expected to have and the demands in plausible future scenarios;

  2. propose actions to remedy the gaps;

  3. score the actions in terms of their contribution to the strategic intent, achievability, and cost.

This enabled them to plot an investment efficiency frontier that recommended actions to be taken, and current investments to be reconsidered.

The intervention developed the what of existing processes into how, developed tools, and provided education, training, mentoring and support both to upskill the client staff and to embed the ways of working in the enterprise.


The client was better able to:

  1. Develop taut evidence-based investment arguments that challenge traditional advocacy;

  2. Score proposed courses of action against the strategic intent, thereby optimising investment; and

  3. Articulate the risk it carried against its strategic intent from actions it could not resource.

In classic strategy development terms, the enterprise could direct its resources to those actions that best ensured it continued to thrive in realising its strategic intent. Furthermore, by assessing the residual risk to its strategic intent, it knew how its strategic intent may need to change.

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