Competitive Intelligence: How to Administer a Strategic Readiness Questionnaire

A few organizations operate like clockwork. Competitive intelligence reveals an opportunity, management formulates a strategy, and everyone works together to capitalize on that opportunity. In most organizations, however, CI gets caught in the middle. It has intelligence that’s critical to the future of the company but has little power to overcome a culture that’s highly resistant to change.

Even worse, an organization’s leaders are often totally unaware of how resistant to change they and others in the organization are.

If you’re an old hand at CI, you can see it, and you know that strong resistance to change puts your organization on a downhill sled to disaster. The most valuable service you can provide at this point is to issue a wake-up call by using the strategic readiness assessment (SRA).

The SRA provides an objective view of just how agile your organization is (or isn’t). It quantifies change resistance in terms of numbers, which executives are often more willing to accept. The assessment isn’t CI’s opinion or what the people down in the organization feel. It’s an accurate representation of the organization’s resistance to change as a whole.

Because of the sensitive nature of the output, don’t let the CI team sponsor the SRA. In fact, it’s actually better if you get the CEO to hire an outside consultant to distribute and collect the assessment and calculate the organization’s strategic readiness score. In any event, the CEO must champion the assessment and take full responsibility in the eyes of the organization for wanting the answers.

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CI’s role must be clearly understood as nothing more than handling the paperwork and passing the results to the CEO. Before distributing the assessment, prepare your organization’s executive team and your own CI cluster so as to avoid stepping on any toes and to garner support for what you’re doing. Here’s how:

  1. Explain the purpose of the strategic readiness assessment to the executive team and explain that it’s being done at the request of the CEO.

    Ask your CEO whether she wants the first (CEO) question included, and remove the question if directed to do so. Also, never show the CEO score to anyone other than the CEO.

    In most cases, you’re better off omitting the CEO question, but some really humble leaders (a good thing) want to know how they’re doing and will respond by making changes. In any event, whether to include the question is the CEO’s call.

  2. Brief your CI cluster — that is, the CI team and people who support the team’s efforts — on the questionnaire and its purpose.

    Your CI cluster consists of everyone on the CI team along with key internal customers.

Employees need to be confident that their responses are confidential; otherwise, the accuracy of the results will suffer. If you’re concerned that employees won’t be honest, consider hiring an outside confidential-survey service to administer the questionnaire.

Have all employees complete and submit the questionnaire; then tally the scores as follows:

  1. Total the scores for each answer.

    For example, the scores for the question “Our managers value subordinates and empower them” are 3, 2, 3, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 4, and 2, which add up to 22.

  2. Divide the totals from Step 1 by the total number of scores to determine the average score for each answer.

    The scores came from a total of ten assessments, so you divide 22 by 10 to get an average score of 2.2 for that question.

  3. Divide the average score for each answer by 5 to determine the percentage score for each answer.

    In this step you calculate where the average answer falls on a scale of 20 percent (indicating that employees strongly disagree with the statement) to 100 percent (indicating that employees strongly agree). Continuing the example, you divide 2.2 by 5 to get 0.44, which is 44 percent.

To determine your organization’s total strategic readiness score, add up the percentages for each answer and divide by the total number of answers (14 if you included the CEO question or 13 if you omitted it). For example, suppose you’re looking at the following scores:

CEO            42%
Managers        44%
Culture            37%
Rewards            48%
Structure            52%
Decisions        38%
Values            32%
Transparency        27%
Accountability        43%
Values Actualized        45%
Ethical Standards        48%
Value of Employees    39%
Excellence        54%
Process Flexibility        46%

The total is 595 percent. Divide by 14 to get 42.5 percent, which rounds up to a total strategic readiness score of 43 percent.

Here’s what the scores generally indicate regarding the ability of an organization to execute change or strategic initiatives:

20% to 35%: Incapable of executing change or strategy
36% to 50%: Highly diminished ability to execute change or strategy
51% to 70%: Moderately capable of executing change or strategy
71% to 85%: Fairly adept at executing change or strategy
86% and above: Highly adept at executing change or strategy

After performing your calculations, send the results and your interpretation of them to your organization’s CEO only. Hopefully, the CEO is willing to lead the charge on correcting any glaring deficiencies in the organization. If the CEO discounts the report, take the following steps:

  1. Make sure that others within the organization never see the report.

  2. Use the report to help you plan ways to use your CI support network to get your intelligence initiatives presented in such a manner as to gain buy-in from the executive team.

One of the best ways to impress upon an organization’s leadership the importance of any given intel is to engage in scenarios and war games. When leaders see how a situation plays out or the consequences of inaction, they’re more likely to accept the current reality and the need to formulate and implement a response.

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