Strategic planning is one of the most beneficial and powerful processes for organizational growth. Participation, buy-in and support from founders and executives create a path for helping organizations work toward achieving important milestones and deliverables. Key stakeholders collaborate to deliver an actionable plan with direction for the next 12 to 18 months, complete with accountability, prioritization, and alignment. By providing a roadmap for accomplishing ambitious goals and allowing people and teams to achieve measurable outcomes, a strategic plan can help align the vision, mission and execution for an organization.
If strategic planning is such an important tool, then why do so many strategic plans fail? The reality is that all the effort and energy that goes into the strategic planning process can quickly fade away as the energy invested returns to daily responsibilities and “business, as usual” if not acted upon with intentionality. More often than not, strategic plans end up being shelved because of a few common pitfalls.
Business authors Dan Norton and Robiert Kaplan write in their book, The Balanced Scorecard, that 90 percent of businesses every year fail to successfully execute their strategic plans. Instead of becoming part of the statistic, we’ll examine how to include accountability and ownership to help beat the odds and wind up as part of the 10 percent who successfully implement a goal-focused strategic plan.
- Successful strategic plan execution is grounded in communication that creates transparency, clarity, and understanding throughout an organization.
- Proper resource allocation forms the base layer of the strategic plan, after all goals and processes are aligned, to ensure goal-focused investments.
- Accountability and monitoring align executable tactics and processes with organizational goals, and the completion of milestones and deliverables show progress along the way.
Communication And Context Matter
The successful execution of a strategic plan comes from a combination of having a high level of buy-in from company stakeholders, a comprehensive communication plan to help team members throughout the organization see the big picture, and a commitment to objective metrics and accomplishments that can turn a plan into a reality.
It is important to remember that strategic plans shouldn’t be developed in a vacuum with only C-suite executives who can be far-removed from the granular workings and practical realities. Without subject matter experts and other leaders who understand the challenges of executing the necessary activities, the expectations may be unrealistic at the ground level. Team leaders and stakeholders should be closely involved in developing the detailed activities and timelines of the plan and the appropriate resources to be successful.
Changes in normal procedures without any explanation to team members about the reasons behind those changes can lead to confusion and disenchantment. Your team members at every level of the company will benefit by knowing about the company’s goals and direction for the next year. That knowledge and context will help them understand how the activities they will be working on fit into the big picture, and help the company reach important goals. Effective communication will help leaders and team members better understand and share the full vision that has emerged from the planning process, providing a better sense of purpose and mission.
Getting All The Right People In Place
Like any great team, companies need to have the right talent and infrastructure in place to successfully complete a strategic plan. The planning process itself should have answers to the key questions around properly staffing and equipping the company to reach its primary goal and subgoals:
- Do we have the right mix of talent and people skills in place?
- Are those people able to devote the time needed toward achieving the milestones relevant to them and the strategic plan?
- Are all of the right tools on hand to carry out the strategies and tactics connected to the plan’s execution?
- Are external resources available and financially realistic to help with executing on some parts of the plan?
Properly carrying out a well developed framework for strategic planning enables more effective decision making around hiring and resource procurement. Effectively monitoring progress to the plan activities can create real-time awareness of any challenges that arise, with room to support those team members involved, and keep the plan on track. Decisions can be made along the way to adapt to the changing economic or marketplace realities, with a pivot toward success.
Monitor, Measure, And Adjust
The milestones and deliverables tied to the plan’s execution need to be mapped out along a timeline by activity owners so the work can be conducted by the best available resources who can complete each of the important activities. Accountability is essential at the execution layer of a strategic plan to maintain progress toward measurable success. This process of monitoring and measuring with regular “progress checkpoints” is beneficial because it confirms progress and identifies shortcomings with enough opportunity to adjust the execution and avoid a failed activity that may threaten the success of the overall plan.
Monitoring progress of strategic plan execution should allow enough room to make progress between checkpoints, but avoid waiting so long that it is hard to pivot if change is needed. Biweekly check-ins are a common and well-regarded practice for managers in order to make sure their people and teams understand what needs to happen next, and can avoid any problems with delivering on-time and on-budget.
Strategic planning, communication, and accountability are about supporting team members to help them contribute to company goals. As very few things in life go exactly according to plan, the ability to adapt and adjust are important for delivering value in the successful execution of a strategic plan. Transparency and inclusion will help all team members understand the value of what they do and how their work moves the organization closer to reaching goals.
Learn how Sellerant can help you activate a strategic plan for your organization’s success.