Posted: 27 Nov. 2019 09 min. read

Strategic vision

Part 4: Best foot forward

Uncertainty is part of reality – but leaders still have to make bold choices. We sat down with Deloitte Best Managed Companies coach Xenia Delaney to discuss the role of strategic vision in Australia’s top private businesses.

Strategic planning is designed to help businesses keep one eye on the future. But in a world experiencing more change, from macroeconomic volatility to digital disruption, managing uncertainty is more difficult than ever.

The applicants of Deloitte’s Best Managed Companies program face the same headwinds as other businesses. What sets them apart is a focus on rigorous planning with flexibility. 

Xenia Delaney, partner at Deloitte Private, says this approach is critical – after all, the environment in which businesses operate will always be ambiguous and unpredictable, no matter the macroeconomic climate. “But there is always vast opportunity for fast movers and companies that operate with a strong foundation,” she says. 

“Agility in strategy execution is a competitive advantage. But it requires strong leadership, KPIs and financial metrics that objectively measure strategic progress. Best Managed Companies also engage in regular ‘what if’ scenario planning to ensure they are prepared for the unpredictable.”

Strategic vision determines the tune for a company and sets the song-sheet that everyone will sing from. It’s important that it’s right.

So what is it that Best Managed Companies are doing to ensure their strategy is flexible enough to meet the demands of a changing world?

Stakeholders at the centre

Having a business vision is one thing, but for it to be truly successful, it needs to not only address the needs of stakeholders but be informed by them.

“A Best Managed Company has a strong and articulated vision, which incorporates stakeholder input from across customer research, supplier relationships and employee engagement,” Xenia says. “By keeping its stakeholders at the core of its strategy and execution, they remain agile to ensure client expectations are exceeded.” 

Getting those insights and ensuring stakeholders are at the core of any strategic planning means going out and speaking to them. Xenia says successful businesses don’t just harvest insights from the top.

“They look for valuable insights from the next generation leaders, savvy customers and, in most cases, strong diverse advisory boards that collectively bring leading edge thinking,” she says.

“They embrace diversity in all forms, ensuring they are well represented by all business functions and all levels of management, including emerging leaders and industry experts.”

Creativity first

As Australia becomes more globally connected and business more competitive, another trend Xenia is seeing is the use of design-thinking to better inform strategic planning.

“More and more Best Managed Companies approach the design of their business strategy by starting with ‘white space’ and employ leading design-thinking principles that foster greater lateral thinking and creativity,” she says. “They avoid prematurely qualifying ideas and ensure customer centricity remains at the heart of their strategy.”

Leadership

But in order to make the bold decisions needed in any strategic plan, a company needs effective leaders. 

“Leadership at Best Managed Companies is highly interactive and engaged with the entire company and its broader stakeholder community,” Xenia says. 

“They invite all levels of management, employees, customers and suppliers to tailored communication forums to ensure each stakeholder group understands the changing dynamics of the business. This fosters trust, transparency and ultimately belief in the leaders of the business.”

Meet our author

Xenia Delaney

Xenia Delaney

Partner, Assurance & Advisory

Xenia has over 24 years’ professional experience with Deloitte including 12 years' as an Assurance and Advisory partner focusing on the delivery of both external audit engagements and advisory work across an array of industries. Xenia is the Private Market leader in Western Sydney. She has strong technical accounting, reporting and advisory skills with specific focus on providing commercially sound yet compliant solutions to both her audit and advisory clients. Her experience has been focused on delivering services to both listed public companies and substantial Australian Private companies with geographically diverse business operations, including several Private Equity Funds. Xenia has been the Lead Audit Partner on several strategic client engagements who she has served in various roles over many of her last 24 years at Deloitte. Her passion for delivering exceptional client service is achieved through her openness and commitment to transparent and timely communication. Through this process Xenia has achieved a well-respected  rapport with Boards, Committee members and management overall.