Most businesses understand that strategic planning is a vital process for determining the company’s mission, vision, values, and long-term goals. A good strategic plan is the key to steering your company in the direction you want to go, so you don’t have to spend your time reacting to the marketplace every day.
But simply having a strategic plan does not guarantee success. Much of your success will depend on your strategy implementation, and how willing employees are to adopt it.
What is strategy implementation?
Strategy implementation is the fourth, and possibly the most important, step in the strategic management process. It refers to the process you will use to translate chosen strategies into organizational actions that will help you achieve specific goals and objectives.
Basically, the strategy implementation process defines what you will do to ensure the proper execution of plans, policies, and procedures across the entire organization. It includes the methods your organization will use to develop, use, and combine your organizational structure, resources, control systems, and culture to follow defined strategies. This will lead to better and more consistent performance, and to a competitive edge in your market.
By making the entire organization the focus of your strategy implementation, you get a better understanding of organizational capabilities. This helps you to address the who, what, where, when, and how of completing tasks and achieving goals.
Why is strategy implementation important?
A lot of planning consists of brainstorming ideas, where the whole team participates, communicates with each other, and shares ideas. Successful strategy implementation requires a team effort. It’s a great tool for bringing everybody together to share ideas and come to a consensus. In addition, strategy implementation translates your team’s ideas into real world actionable items. It inspires confidence and productivity when your team sees that they’ve come up with ideas that will actually work.
Strategic implementation is also important because it can help you to identify areas where you might need more resources (hardware, software, human) and support to successfully execute your strategic plan. This can help you to improve efficiency, quality, and customer satisfaction.
Six steps to a successful strategy implementation
The following six steps can help you to complete a successful strategy implementation process.
Step 1: Have an action plan
Before you can implement anything, you and your team need to know what you are implementing. This means that you need to have a clear, concise, and compelling strategic plan that makes sense for your company and can be easily communicated to stakeholders.
To ensure that messaging is clear and consistent when communicating your plan to stakeholders and team members, you can develop a strategic planning framework. A framework is like a blueprint or visual outline that helps you to explain to stakeholders how you are working towards your vision, purpose, and goals.
The framework for your strategic plan should include the following elements:
- Your overall goal or objective.
- Strategic drivers or pillars: The internal and external forces that shape your company’s strategy.
- Projects and initiatives: A list of the projects and initiatives involved in your strategy aligned with the drivers or pillars.
Step 2: Set clear goals
Define your goals and describe the processes that will be used to help team members reach those goals. The list should include shared goals—the goals that the entire team has agreed to work on to successfully complete the project. Shared goals help to keep the team focused and motivated, as opposed to goals created from the top down without the input of the people who will actually work on the project.
Make sure that your goals align with the entire company’s goals, vision, and values. Review and evaluate your goals often and revise as appropriate if there are any that don’t currently align with corporate goals.
Consider creating a visual document to display these goals along with their timelines. Visual documents are generally easier to read and understand at a glance than text alone. Use a digital diagramming tool, such as Lucidchart, to create a visual document that you can display in a prominent location. This way the team can see where they are, where they need to go, and stay on top of any changes and updates.
Step 3: Assign responsibilities and roles
You need to determine what roles are needed for the project. Then decide who is best suited to be assigned to each role. To help you to determine who is best for each role, you might want to create a business capability map. This map should include the capacity of your business to do the work that needs to be done, including available resources such as employees, teams, equipment, materials, and where all of them are located.
Be sure you communicate who is responsible for what. This improves accountability among team members and makes the project more transparent for all interested parties. Also, make sure that everybody understands the expectations and timelines for their assignments. Set up a communication process that must be followed so that there are no surprises and nothing falls through the cracks during the project.
Set up a strong leadership structure so your teams know who the decision-makers are and who they can go to when they need support. Good leaders can drive the strategy forward, keep the project on track, and step in to help solve problems if they come up.
Step 4: Execute your strategic plan
When everybody knows their roles and has their assignments, it’s time to roll out the strategic plan. Monitor progress to ensure that processes are running smoothly. This will help you to identify problems and revise processes if needed.
Step 5: Get progress updates and communicate often
Be sure to communicate often with your teams. Frequent updates can help to bolster morale on your various teams. Provide frequent feedback to keep team members productive and to keep up team and individual morale. Good feedback can help your teams to stay focused and motivated to real goals and maintain productivity.
Report progress so stakeholders and senior management know what is going on. Progress reports can help you know what is or isn’t working so you can reassign resources as needed or tweak processes to keep things moving.
Lucidchart can help you to create visual progress reports. Display these reports where everybody can easily see them. This helps your team to know what’s been done and what still needs to be done. It also helps leaders to see where they might need to assign additional resources to keep the project on schedule.
Step 6: Stay focused on the strategy
Don’t get distracted by new tasks or projects that don’t fit within the current overall strategy. Some things might need to be placed in the backlog if they don’t align with your strategy. Then after you have finished the current project, you can look at the backlog to see what items make sense for future strategic plans and projects.
Common challenges of strategy implementation
Even with a great strategy and a great plan, you can still run into some challenges as you implement your strategy. Here are a few of the challenges you might face:
- Not assigning the right people to the right responsibilities: Some people might have some experience doing certain tasks, but that doesn’t mean they are right for the job at this particular time. Maybe an expert is more suited for this project so deadlines are consistently met.
- Not measuring goals/success: If you don’t measure your goals, you won’t be able to tell if you’re making any progress. It’s kind of like using your phone’s GPS system: You can tell your phone where you want to go, but if it doesn’t know where you currently are, it won’t be able to plot the fastest and most efficient path to get there. Making your goals measurable lets you see where you are and where you need to go. This keeps you focused and on the best path to achieve your goals.
- Overcommitting: In addition to being measurable, goals need to be achievable. Sometimes it can be hard to say no to certain features and options because they would work well in your project. But you need to be realistic about what you can actually deliver within a given timeframe with the resources that you have. Commit to only what you can actually achieve in this project. Anything else can be put in the backlog for a future iteration
- Not enough support: Employees need to feel like they have the support of their supervisors and other team members. Support ensures that everybody works as a team and helps to prevent silos from forming.
With a strong implementation plan in place, your strategy will have a much better chance of succeeding. By ensuring your strategic plan is accessible to your entire time in a shared visual workspace, you’ll be better able to keep people on the same page as you innovate.
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