We began this series of blogs in which I outlined a map of the overall Strategic Planning Process. So far we have covered Step 1: Establishing Vision & Objectives for Success, Step 2: Environmental Scan and Step 3: Strategy Formulation. With Steps 1 through 3 done, you are ready for Step 4: Implementation.
While many companies focus on developing plans, the most important element in planning is implementation. Making the plan happen is critical, as it is the actual execution that leads to results.
Strategy implementation is all about deploying your resources. There are untold possible considerations when implementing strategy. Here are a few:
- Do you need to adopt a program (marketing, client/customer management, sales training, etc.)?
- What are your budget requirements and do you need financing or short term credit?
- What new procedures or protocols will be required?
- Do you need more staff?
- Does your staff need restraining or motivation?
Businesses should take some simple steps to ensure their plan generates real results.
Effective communication is critical for the successful strategic implementation of any plan, whether an organizational strategic plan or a marketing or operational plan. Those required to support the plan need to be informed of the plan and its importance to the organization. In addition, all employees should know why the plan was developed, what it means to the company, who will be involved in its implementation and how they can contribute to its success.
The death knell for any strategy is a lack of understanding by those who will be implementing it. Imagine if you were changing your sales process to add value to your customer interactions and separate yourself from competitors, and you did not bother telling your sales people nor get them the training they needed.
Successful implementation of strategy also requires the use of a calendar to ensure that you are having clear end-points for completion and that you are arranging activities to be done at the appropriate time. Nothing happens in isolation, and the coordination of projects is part of the territory. Also, it can take months to go from planning to implementation to seeing results. Impatience for results will grow if a properly laid-out time frame is not established. Imagine if you were rebranding your business and you developed a new webpage that people were looking at before you changed the experience of being in your store or office.
Accountability must be explicit to ensure successful implementation. Owners/managers must identify employees responsible for executing specific aspects of the plan, saying: “This is what you need to do. This is when you need to do it by. This is how your success will be measured.” Importantly, those responsible need to be held accountable for completing their tasks. If lack of performance is overlooked, or if nobody verifies that tasks were completed, employees begin to believe that their efforts don’t matter.
Next time, we will look at measurement and evaluation. This critical step is most often ignored but at the same time is what makes a well-thought-out, planned and implemented strategy as successful as possible.