Implementation is the process that turns strategies and plans into actions in order to accomplish strategic objectives and goals. Implementing your strategic plan is as important, or even more important, than your strategy
Critical actions move a strategic plan from a document that sits on the shelf to actions that drive business growth. Sadly, the majority of companies who have strategic plans fail to implement them.
Nine out of ten organizations fail to implement their strategic plan for many reasons:
- 60% of organizations don’t link strategy to budgeting
- 75% of organizations don’t link employee incentives to strategy
- 86% of business owners and managers spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy
- 95% of the typical workforce doesn’t understand their organization’s strategy.
A strategic plan provides a business with the roadmap it needs to pursue a specific strategic direction and set of performance goals, deliver customer value, and be successful. However, this is just a plan; it doesn’t guarantee that the desired performance is reached any more than having a roadmap guarantees the traveler arrives at the desired destination.
Getting Your Strategy Ready for Implementation
For those businesses that have a plan in place, wasting time and energy on the planning process and then not implementing the plan is very discouraging. Although the topic of implementation may not be the most exciting thing to talk about, it’s a fundamental business practice that’s critical for any strategy to take hold.
The strategic plan addresses the what and why of activities, but implementation addresses the who, where, when, and how. The fact is that both pieces are critical to success. In fact, companies can gain competitive advantage through implementation if done effectively. In the following sections, you’ll discover how to get support for your complete implementation plan and how to avoid some common mistakes.
Covering All Your Bases
As a business owner, executive, or department manager, your job entails making sure you’re set up for a successful implementation. Before you start this process, evaluate your strategic plan and how you may implement it by answering a few questions to keep yourself in check.
Take a moment to honestly answer the following questions:
- How committed are you to implementing the plan to move your company forward?
- How do you plan to communicate the plan throughout the company?
- Are there sufficient people who have a buy-in to drive the plan forward?
- How are you going to motivate your people?
- Have you identified internal processes that are key to driving the plan forward?
- Are you going to commit money, resources, and time to support the plan?
- What are the roadblocks to implementing and supporting the plan?
- How will you take available resources and achieve maximum results with them?
Making Sure You Have the Support
Often overlooked are the five key components necessary to support implementation: people, resources, structure, systems, and culture. All components must be in place in order to move from creating the plan to activating the plan.
The first stage of implementing your plan is to make sure to have the right people on board. The right people include those folks with required competencies and skills that are needed to support the plan. In the months following the planning process, expand employee skills through training, recruitment, or new hires to include new competencies required by the strategic plan.
You need to have sufficient funds and enough time to support implementation. Often, true costs are underestimated or not identified. True costs can include a realistic time commitment from staff to achieve a goal, a clear identification of expenses associated with a tactic, or unexpected cost overruns by a vendor. Additionally, employees must have enough time to implement what may be additional activities that they aren’t currently performing.
Set your structure of management and appropriate lines of authority, and have clear, open lines of communication with your employees. A plan owner and regular strategy meetings are the two easiest ways to put a structure in place. Meetings to review the progress should be scheduled monthly or quarterly, depending on the level of activity and time frame of the plan.
Both management and technology systems help track the progress of the plan and make it faster to adapt to changes. As part of the system, build milestones into the plan that must be achieved within a specific time frame. A scorecard is one tool used by many organizations that incorporates progress tracking and milestones.
Create an environment that connects employees to the organization’s mission and that makes them feel comfortable. To reinforce the importance of focusing on strategy and vision, reward success. Develop some creative positive and negative consequences for achieving or not achieving the strategy. The rewards may be big or small, as long as they lift the strategy above the day-to-day so people make it a priority.