Strategy is nothing new to organizations, as they have been developing multi-year plans to achieve their goals since their inception. However, where organizations often struggle is strategy execution.
Often, leaders focus on crafting their vision and forming clear, tangible objectives, and tend to spend less time focusing on the importance of deploying their strategy. When this happens, the execution phase becomes overwhelming as leaders struggle with issues such as change management, insufficient resources, project management, and a lack of executive support. This ultimately leads to strategies being “shelved” and not given the necessary priority, resulting in wasted time, money, and resources. While there are many barriers to deploying your strategic vision, you can navigate the choppy waters of strategy execution by including these six components in your strategic planning process, which will help ensure your strategy stays “off the shelf.”
1. Leverage the power of data
A valuable strategic plan is a tool that helps organizations solve issues that are plaguing them. A common misstep in strategy development comes from an over reliance on personal and/or emotional bias, as opposed to fact-based, from leaders when they are deciding what problems they need to solve, and in fact find a ‘problem.’
To prevent emotional biases from creeping into the process, companies who develop and implement a fact-based, data-driven approach to fully understand the root cause and impact of organizational problems could avoid a potentially harmful outcome. The identification of problems must start by understanding the data that is available (both internally and externally) and by identifying what types of data need to be leveraged.
Data comes in many forms and utilizing a wide variety of data will help identify problems, strengthen decision-making ability, improve your strategic planning outcomes, and overall help drive your business forward.
> Help identify and solve problems — it comes through through tracking and reviewing business processes
> Strengthen decision-making abilities as organizations collect it — this type of information can come from customer interaction, web traffic, social media, and online transactions
> Performance data that can be collected on how well employees are performing and how best practices can help others within the organization; It also helps improve business processes which ultimately leads to reductions of time and cost — this can be obtained through yearly performance reviews, surveys, etc.
2. Align execution to strategy
A key component to a successful strategy execution depends on your organization’s ability to align strategic objectives to roles and responsibilities. Having a great strategy, which you believe can be executed, doesn’t mean it will lead to clear actions for employees. Even the highest performing employees may still miss the mark if leaders guide them with the wrong targets. That is why strategic planning should include alignment between the corporate center and its business units; across business units and their functions and, ultimately, to the individual employees.
Strategically aligned organizations focus on their most important asset: people. Implementing any strategy starts with educating, involving, and aligning the people responsible for executing it. Take the time to review your strategic objectives for clarity and to ensure you have people in place who can provide execution ownership.
3. Create common understanding
Communication is often cited as one of the major reasons why strategic objectives never see the light of day. Without communication, the workplace is not a connected environment. So, without clear, consistent communication how do you expect your strategy to be successful?
When leaders don’t focus on communication, it creates the risk of misaligned strategic objectives which leads to employees wondering what work is important, how to prioritize problems and goals, and what their function is. It also can create resentment as employees either don’t feel they are being listened to or simply don’t buy in what the organization is seeking to accomplish.
Communication creates an understanding of what is going to happen, why is it happening, and how are we going to accomplish it. It is critical for disseminating information that employees need to be effective and serves to build relationships and trust across the organization.
By finding ways to solicit feedback and input along the journey, leaders gain the ability to better understand results, to be more problem specific, address re-occurring negative situations, and make communication more thorough. Designing a comprehensive communication plan focused on engaging essential employees — that includes the “why, what, and how” of the new strategy — will help win support and develop trust between leadership and individual contributors while establishing ownership over change initiatives.
4. Balance your capacity
When a major project or initiative is about to go live, ensuring your organization has the proper resources (time, people, assets, capabilities, etc.) to achieve the strategic goals is invaluable. Many organizations overlook their organizational capacity when executing a strategy, and employees tend to struggle to maintain a healthy balance between day-to-day business and the execution of strategic initiatives. This presents a risk to your strategy as employees are most likely to feel more urgency to complete the “day jobs” they were originally hired for.
Strategic objectives should be incorporated into employee functions and current business processes, so employee energy is focused solely on their daily responsibilities. This helps eliminate the common employee misconception that a new strategy creates more work and not new work. If you have not already done so, ensure strategic initiatives are integrated into daily functions by deploying a reasonable number of initiatives at one time and meeting regularly to monitor performance and address issues. After putting in all the work it requires to develop clear strategies for your organization, you owe it to yourself to see it executed on through sufficient capacity planning.
5. Build commitment to change
Change management plans are designed to enable project success and to drive effective transformation by easing adoption, creating awareness for why change is needed, and empowering and engaging employees. Most failures in strategic execution can be attributed to employee resistance due to lack of engagement, understanding, and leadership support. An effective change management plan must prioritize making a case for change; it should have a clear plan that manages resistance through empowering and engaging employees, measures progress, manages implementation barriers, and ensures change is sustainable.
Below are additional considerations when forming your change management plan:
> Determine the impact of change in terms of people, process, and technology
> Develop a robust, multi-channel communication strategy
> Provide effective and informative training on new processes, expectations, and technology
> Implement a support structure, such as cross-training employees, to allow your company the flexibility to utilize the talent of your staff
> Measure the effectiveness of the change process
6. Drive accountability
Accountability gives individuals ownership over parts of the strategy, enables them to understand how strategy is performing, and how to course-correct when things go wrong. There is no question that ownership leads to a better likelihood of success. Clear governance and accountability helps people become committed to strategic change and increases their ability to recognize the successes and failures of strategic activities. This, in turn, provides individuals executing strategic activities with the ability to track and evaluate failures, and helps leaders make adjustments, course corrections, or radical changes, if necessary.
The following controls help promote effective strategic governance:
> Ensure there is surveillance over internal and external factors that can potentially impact the organization’s strategy
> Continuously and systematically check whether assumptions on which the organization’s strategy is based are valid
> Evaluate the organization’s strategy execution effectiveness
> Verify that strategy is being executed as planned and determine whether results are being delivered as expected
Let’s recap. Successful strategy execution can be an elusive process, and it takes a well-thought-out plan that includes all parts of an organization. It requires leadership to communicate clearly and consistently, and a workforce that is properly aligned throughout the entire execution journey. When developing a strategic plan, it is important to incorporate a plan of action for strategy execution. This will help to ensure your organization creates the best opportunity for achieving its goals and that your team’s hard work doesn’t go to waste.
By incorporating the above steps into your strategic planning process, you can help ensure your strategic plan doesn’t become another document collecting dust on a shelf.
Sometimes the hardest part is getting started. If you need assistance, please feel free to let us know.
A highly driven and motivated leader with a passion of solving problems by developing innovative and creative solutions that position organizations to achieve success. He has experience in construction, financial institutions, food production, hospitality, manufacturing, alternative medicine, pharmaceuticals, sports & entertainment, and technology. He is an engaging leader that displays enthusiasm and places a strong emphasis on working with people in the process to better understand, develop, influence and execute solutions and strategies guide organizations to meeting their goals.