It’s hard enough developing a strategic plan to guide your business through the next year, two years or five years. But all too often, CEOs and business owners think after a plan is put down on paper, placed in a binder and distributed throughout the company, implementation will magically follow. Sadly, it just doesn’t happen that way.
Execution is a serious challenge, because there’s lots of moving parts and many people must be involved. It requires a deep commitment to taking action and sticking with the process, even after you feel it’s time to move on to other things.
Here are some thoughts and guidelines on executing effectively within your organization:
Clarify and communicate your vision.
The strategic plan encapsulates your vision of where the business is headed. But just because it’s clear in your head doesn’t mean everyone else will instinctively understand it. Your executive team and employees can only “get on board” if they feel they grasp the essence of your vision. To achieve this objective, summarize your vision in a short paragraph (or two, at most). Distribute it to all stakeholders. A week later, do it again. Find new and different ways to keep your vision uppermost in their minds, until it becomes part of their lives in the workplace. Over-communicate goals and priorities, so everyone stays focused on what needs to be done.
Set and assign specific goals.
Any strategic plan worth executing must contain specific goals. Some plans include “goal categories,” which can be broken down into precise activities, which are then assigned to selected individuals and given clear-cut deadlines. Along with this, develop metrics to track progress on the assigned goals.
Align systems and processes.
The vision is defined, goals are set, now organizational processes take over. Here’s where execution often stumbles. If people and systems aren’t aligned with the strategic vision, if instead the leader hopes things will somehow just fall into place, the chances of eventual success are slim. Everyone in the organization needs to see how their efforts (and the processes they’re responsible for) contribute to execution of the strategic plan. They also have to incorporate these activities into their daily activities, so things don’t get lost in the shuffle.
Business leaders should understand that execution takes time (generally, a lot more time than devising a strategic plan). This is a challenge in itself, since as time passes, other priorities arise and can result in taking your eye off the prize. Also, the process for executing the strategic plan has to be flexible enough to adapt to unforeseen events or changing market conditions.
Finally, don’t stint on the tools and resources employees need for implementing the strategic plan. Would additional training make the process run more smoothly? What else can you do to increase the chances for successful implementation? And remember, as goals are met and people execute as desired, praise and reward their efforts. This also helps people stay focused on the end-result.