As the incoming CEO of HomeServe’s UK business, after having worked across the group for more than a decade, I knew two things for sure:
- The business I was about to take control of was in need of a forward-looking strategy to enable it to properly move on from its recent, difficult past.
- That, if this strategy were to be successful, it needed, more than anything, to engage and inspire the People of the business and empower them to bring it to life.
The ship had since been steadied, but they needed a purpose and a vision, a reason to be proud again.
There’s a lot of mystique about business strategy. Leaders can easily fall into the trap of intellectual complexity, tying themselves up in knots trying to not just create a strategy but actually agree on what it is and what it does.
I found inspiration from soon-to-retire P&G (Procter & Gamble) CEO, AG Lafley’s book ,“Playing to Win” and his straightforward approach that strategy is simply a set of choices about winning, and that at the heart of that strategy are two questions – where will we play and how will we win there?
So at the point I became CEO, the business was on a steadier foundation and our absolute focus was – and still is – our Customers. This was reinforced through the creation of our Customer Charter, created for, and by, our Customers and People; a set of principles that we live by every day.
My challenge therefore was to move HomeServe Membership forward by giving us that purpose and vision; creating a clear and inspiring journey that our People would want to join me on. Or, as Lafley would say, articulate a winning aspiration.
Before I began my new role, I took a two-month sabbatical to focus on creating that strategy. I spent time at business schools in the US and cutting-edge strategy workshops in Europe.
On my return, we focused on the ‘where?’ and ‘how?’, building our strategy around six “how to wins” that all support a winning aspiration. We’re clear about where we’re going to play, we know how we’re going to measure our success and we’ve identified the capabilities we need to reach our goal. It said everything I hoped it would, but then it wasn’t written for me.
What we’re also clear about, critically, is what we’re not doing, and being open and brave about stopping doing things that add no value to, or distract us from, our strategy has served us really well. Indeed, it’s actually opened up some new doors for us!
And so in March 2014, just two months into my new job, I began the job of communicating what has become known as the ‘Effortless 2020’ strategy to our People. And something seems to have resonated with them.
A year on from my presentations, with our Customer satisfaction at a new high and commercial performance strong, we asked our People whether they understood what HomeServe is trying to achieve as a business and the response, was a resounding 94% ‘Yes’, up by 19 points on the previous year. And the word “Effortless” has become so much more important to us than just being the title of our strategy. It has become our rallying cry, the thing that sums up what we are all about.
Achieving Customer satisfaction is critical, achieving growth numbers vital. But doing these things with your People leading the way? That’s the best it could be.