Do your initial briefs reflect your strategy?

A a leader, your maximum influence on any initiative is in the initial brief. This is where you lay out the specific results the initiative will deliver and provide guidance for the team so they can make the right trade-off decisions during execution. If the initial brief does not reflect your strategy it is unlikely to trickle in later.

Whenever you kick off a new action, whether it is a new project, a market entry, a product development effort or a process implementation, there is always a written or verbal brief to the team who will deliver it. Research on development projects has long established that the ability to impact cost and functional capabilities is highest at the start of a project, and then falls precipitously as decisions and mindsets are locked-in.

Taking the time to step back will become harder as progress reviews become more and more executional. Nobody wants to hear “Why didn’t you tell us this 6 months ago?” If the link to the strategy is not clearly established up-front in the brief, it is unlikely to be introduced later.

A good brief lays out the specific results expected and explains how they advance the strategy. How will success be “unquestionably” measured? What are the key underlying assumptions the team must confirm? What is the level of importance and urgency to guide the team when they make time, cost and quality trade-offs? Is there a next stage that builds upon this initiative?

Creating a good initial brief for a strategic initiative takes considerable thought, but is one of top management’s biggest contributions to successful execution.