From strategy to execution-or not?

Why do 70% of strategic plans fail to be implemented?So you have invested the time, energy and resources to put together a strategic plan and you are so proud of the results and outcome. Now what? According to the Balanced Scorecard Collaborative more than 70% of organizations who have a strategic plan do not execute on it? Why do you think that may be? What are the things that get in the way of executing on the plan?

From our experience there are at least 5 reasons why the strategic plan does not get executed or only partially implemented:

1) Lack of engagement and stakeholder buy-in: This often takes the form of a plan that was put together by a small portion of the organization’s stakeholders (typically the executive team) and then never communicated out or shared with the organization as a whole. People cannot execute on a strategy that they are not aware of nor possibly committed to.

2) Lack of a clear action plan: If you spend the whole time strictly strategizing and not putting together a concrete action plan (which includes concrete objectives, timelines and accountability) it will be impossible to transfer the strategy to action.

3) Lack of connection between the strategy and culture: we need to ensure that we not only talk about where we are going and why but we need to also clearly define a strategy that is supported and connected to our organizational culture.

4) Lack of connection between actions and strengths: are the right people using their strengths to get things done!

5) Lack of follow-up with the strategic plan: how often do companies go through the exercise and define the plan, get all excited about it and then set it aside till next year! Make your plan a living document and revisit and measure the progress on a quarterly basis.

So, how about turning these negatives into positives? What can you start to do today?

Here are 5 things that you can do:

1) Create a communication and engagement strategy: This means that you clearly define how you will communicate the vision and strategy, who will deliver the message (and it can be several credible senders), when we will deliver the message (and it cannot only be once!!), and what forums we will create to get input and feedback. Without input and dialogue we cannot have engagement and without engagement we cannot have commitment to execute!

2) Don’t just talk, create a plan for action: We have seen many sessions where lots of time is spent discussing where we want to go, why we want to go there, but then run out of time to define HOW we will get there, WHO will do what, WHEN it will be done and WHAT is needed in order to execute. In planning your session ensure that you commit at least 1/3 of your time to the creation of a concrete action plan.

3) Connect strategy to culture: Before starting a strategic planning process ask yourself some key questions: who are we as a company? What are our beliefs, values, behaviors and strengths? Have a clear picture of who you are as a company before you talk strategy because you need to ensure that the culture you have can support the strategy that you conceptualize.

4) Know your talent: As we move from conception to action and start to assign owners to execute on the plan make sure that you clearly understand who is best suited to execute on key areas of the strategy. Many plans will not move forward if the wrong person has been assigned to a task.

5) Create a tracking and accountability system: Before even leaving the strategic planning session you need to put in place a process by which you will check in with the people committed to action. Take 15 minutes in already existing monthly or weekly meetings and check in or set up some type of forum (on a monthly or quarterly basis) where you continually check in on the plan.

As a leader you should also be asking yourself: is this strategy one that will energize and motivate people? Will it get them excited to come to work and be part of this vision? If the answer is yes then you are on the right track and ensuring that you consider the above mentioned elements you will have an even stronger recipe for success.

Therefore, the key to success is to ensure a way to keep the plan alive! A strategy is only as good as the actions that are put in place to execute upon it. Make sure that it is a dynamic and on-going process that all people engage with; otherwise, it is only as good as the paper that it is written on.

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