Creating a strategic plan is a process that a business and its employees either love or hate, and once a plan is developed, it needs to be implemented. The plan or framework is designed to help a business chart the future and envision the opportunity that lies ahead, but once the plan is completed, how does an organization move the execution of such strategy and direction into the future work forward?
Often, there are good intentions to implementing a strategic plan, but those intentions don’t always arrive at the anticipated gain. Very often, the activity goes in a multitude of directions without a clear intended path. Let’s identify a few basic elements that a business should undertake to ensure future progress against the plan.
First and foremost, proper plan communication is key. It’s important that leaders not just email a copy of the plan to everyone and expect that each department will understand how/ways to implement. The organization needs to be engaged from the planning phase. As soon as the plan is ready, leadership should expose it to everyone because strategy presentations don’t work! Internal communication is key from the bottom up and critical to improving the communication process. According to a recent McKinsey study, guidelines and policies flow from the top and feedback and ideas funnel from the bottom. Leadership should, therefore, expose the strategy to the organization, keep it alive and up-to-date, and have everyone engage with it regularly.
Second, a collaborative culture should be fostered from the beginning. This means encouraging different teams and departments to work together toward meaningful incentives. Keeping the end in mind, it’s important to identify areas of investment by encouraging team leaders to discuss with individuals at all levels to determine if there are shortcomings present in people, technology or infrastructure that might prevent success. Hand in hand with this is the need to be open and receptive to investments in the appropriate areas as needed.
Third, leadership should treat employees as owners in the business. One way to do this is to connect the strategy to everyone’s role and appeal to the individual’s own rational self-interests to excel at execution. In one study, 67% of employees did not understand their role when new growth initiatives were launched. Fostering a two-way dialogue about the strategy can lead to greater organizational buy-in. Those who “own” the strategy and are rewarded for it will implement it!
Finally, it’s important to design and use success metrics that are straightforward. Even using tools as simple as red, yellow and green scorecards highlight areas that require additional focus. Also important to note, any business strategy involves some degree of change — in direction, focus, structure, process or a few other factors. What makes strategy successful is how well it’s sponsored by senior management, both in words and in actions. It is key, therefore, to ensure that the accountability system reinforces those behaviors needed to implement the strategy.
A well-planned execution process is as important as the plan/framework itself. By engaging the entire team from the onset, the business will reap tremendous benefit.
Onward with strategy implementation!
Bruce Weber is founder and president/CEO at Weber Group. Weber brings more than 20 years of experience to the for-profit and nonprofit community, working with startup, growth and mature organizations. His focus is in strengthening organizations through strategic planning, organizational development, leadership and board development. He is a BoardSource Certified Governance trainer and a founding partner of the Nonprofit Lifecycles Institute.
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