The four week strategic review

The ultimate guide to conducting a rapid strategic review and identifying new value-creating opportunities for your business
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A strategic review is a structured process to identify new value-creating opportunities within a business. This could be about improving the performance of an existing division, or taking advantage of a new market adjacency opportunity. Many companies undertake strategic reviews on an annual basis as part of their strategic planning process. Other businesses will undertake them on a more ad hoc basis when presented with a specific opportunity or problem within the business. A change of ownership or appointment of a new CEO can often trigger the need for a strategic review of the business as a way to clarify the key areas of opportunity and challenges within the existing portfolio.

Whatever its origins, a strategic review should be a clear fact-based analysis of the business opportunity or issue. It provides an opportunity to step back from day-to-day operations to assess the strategic foundations on which a business is built. The outcome of a strategic review should be a clear set of strategic recommendations and a future roadmap for the business that charts its course and
enables increased and sustained performance now and for the future.

Benefits of a strategic review

When conducted well, a strategic review can deliver significant benefits to a business. In addition to the direct financial benefits of improving performance and targeting new growth opportunities, the process itself can improve alignment between employees, senior management teams and other key stakeholders, helping to drive a high performance culture and clarity on the future direction of the business.

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Delivering a strategic review

Start with the answer
Strategic reviews are often undertaken under onsiderable pressure to get to an answer rapidly. Every day needs to count. You can’t afford to spend time on research or analysis that doesn’t make the final cut. The leading strategy firms therefore adopt a hypothesis-led approach to strategy formulation (e.g. McKinsey’s Decision Tree or Bain’s Answer First approaches).
Be 80/20
When operating under a severe time constraint, it is critical to be 80/20 in undertaking new analysis. Feedback from customers can be key, for example when considering a market adjacency opportunity or a turnaround of an existing business. A four week
timeframe is not long enough to undertake a major program of primary research. However, a short focused online survey or series of telephone interviews with key customers can nonetheless achieve a lot in a short space of time and help to bring the recommendations to life.
Allocate dedicated project resources for the review
A good strategic review takes dedicated focus, away from the day-to-day distractions of line responsibilities. On our engagements, we achieve our best results working in mixed consulting / internal teams, with the internal team members seconded to the project for the duration of the review.
Allow enough time to capture and document the key findings
You should not underestimate the time required to distil complex strategic analysis into a clearly presented and logically structured report. It’s therefore good practice to start planning well in advance of the final week. We try to have an initial draft outline of the report developed by the end of week 1. Having the end output in mind early on also helps to maintain an 80/20 focus across the project team on the key analysis that is required.
Build in time to think about the implementation
A strategic review is a waste of time unless it is accompanied by a clear call to action and plan of attack. As well as making clear and logical recommendations, it must also set out how those recommendations would be implemented. Within a four week timeframe, it’s not going to be possible to set out a detailed implementation plan. Nonetheless, a high-level view of the implementation roadmap detailing the key initiatives to be implemented and expected timeframes helps to bring the strategy to life and can form the basis of a more detailed program plan.

FAQs

What is a strategic review?
A strategic review is a structured process to evaluate the external environment and internal context of a business in order to define the optimal positioning and operating model for the future.

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