Making it happen….!

No matter how good your competitive strategy, it is all wasted effort unless it is then consistently implemented. If you, like many businesses, are now back to active trading and want to “build back better”, you may have tweaked or even completely reset your future strategy.

Today we want to address the biggest challenge to this investment in strategic planning. The fact that so few strategies actually get consistently implemented. All too often business plans don’t contain any ongoing link to structured implementation. And even where they do ‘Action Planning’ does not necessarily lead to ‘Action Doing’.

It’s this gulf, into which many great strategies disappear, that we will focus on next. There are two aspects. ‘Action Planning’, which we covered last time. And ‘Action Doing’ or implementation, which we will cover here.

In the most recent of our “Rescue, Recovery, Reinvent” series, we covered – Action Planning, so if you have been following this series you might already have some Critical Success Factors and Goals which link to Key Performance Indicators or KPI’s.

So, Job Done. Right? Well no, you now have an Action Plan. A piece of paper?

“Making it Happen” or “Action Doing” is a whole different world of hard work and inevitable setbacks.

Communication, leadership, aligning people, anticipating, identifying, and resolving barriers, monitoring performance and reacting, not too soon, but not too late. Are all challenges we are about to face.

From here on I am assuming that you have an action plan in front of you. Something like the template shown below. And that includes CSF’s, Goals, Tactics and Actions. And that each goal has at least one linked KPI. 

Communicating Your New Strategy 

Next Level Strategic Planning template

As you start to finalise your strategy you will need to begin to consider how you will communicate it out to your organisation. It is not unusual for a new strategy to be the organisations best kept secret.

Effective and sustained communication is critical to strategy implementation. By the leader, and the senior team if you have one, to the whole company. Followed by a ripple effect of repeated communication by the leader and senior managers into their departments and on into any smaller teams.

Providing a feedback route and responding to all feedback can be helpful. But what if people disagree? Listen carefully to any questions or feedback. Even from your perpetual doubters. Then decide, Have you heard anything which makes you doubt the choices you made in your strategy process? Have you heard anything which makes you doubt the basis of the assumptions you made along the way? If no, tell them you have considered their feedback carefully but decided on balance that the strategy you have set is right.

If yes, tell them you are looking into it and do so, best through someone else in your team. If it must be you, find someone independent to help, your accountant or a peer. Then report back to the individual and the wider team on what action you have decided to take, if any.

To head off these issues, you could decide to engage more people in your company in the strategy development process. In my experience this leads to a much slower process and a more “incremental” result. It is your job as the leader in your company to set the direction, or to appoint a specific, small, and skilled team to do so on your behalf. Ensure they report to the board or senior management team regularly, but push them to get on with it.

There is no evidence to support our instinct to consult people about their goals. We “feel” that if we collaborate with them to develop their goals, this will engage them and gain more effort in implementation. This is not the case. A strategy and set of goals well communicated, with belief and a vivid picture of a positive future will achieve just as much engagement, and it will be your vision they work towards, for your business.

It is also important to consider what “redundant” past strategies, policies or approaches need to be “killed off”. Past strategic initiatives can linger for decades within company’s and must be formally ended.

Periodic updates on the progress of your strategy are important. Whilst an annual review with all employees to talk about progress and results, lessons learnt, and any tweaks being made to the strategy will boost implementation.

In Phase 3, “Strategy”, of our Next Level Strategic Planning process we strive to find a way of explaining the competitive strategy in one sentence. It is now that this effort pays off. Your aim is to hear this one sentence in use regularly across the business.

Measure the effectiveness of your communication by the response you get. Read that again because it’s important. Expect warm words but no action. Expect to need to repeat your message and to do more before you see initial action.

Do not start with a pause. We do this so often we accept it without thinking. We are going to action this exciting new strategy – and we will start in three weeks. The intervening time is just enough to cool off. Start now, today. Set up something to be different after your announcement. Change the office layout. Rebrand. Restructure. (If appropriate). Add a new strategy, goals and KPI board into your office or production area.

People Power.

In any business with a senior management team your role as the business leader / owner has or is changing. Changing from you running the business, to you running the team that runs the business. Your senior team therefore are the ones who must deliver the new focus.

“People Power” is critical. Ask yourself, “Are the right people in the right roles to deliver the plan? Is there enough capability and commitment in this team to ensure your strategy is driven through to implementation?

The right people have the right skills and actively share the company’s values. They are in the right role when their skills and passion align with their role.

Make sure the people you have are, or can be, right for the roles you need to deliver your strategy. Recruitment where needed and personal development may be aspects which are needed before implementation of your plan can really achieve traction and make substantive progress. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made if something in the team is not right. Face up to this before launching your plan or expect ongoing frustration and limited progress.

You will need to include yourself in this too. Do you have the leadership skills needed? Leadership is a skill like any other. You can improve your leadership through training, coaching or self-development.

Align and Conquer

Are your senior team “up” for the fight ahead? Not being against the new strategy is not enough. They must be advocates. And do they have the resources, systems and processes needed to deliver? If not, you are setting them up to fail.

We advocate DiSC psychometric profiling or the five dysfunctions of a team if not already in place, for your senior team as a key part of the transition into implementation.

Do engage them in the strategy development process by seeking their input and opinions. Report back to them on your progress regularly. Involve them where their expertise is relevant. Involve them directly in developing the action plans for their area of responsibility.

Involve them in designing the communication of the strategy so that they carry it actively into their teams. Introduce the senior or leadership team to the plan & establish your communication ground rules in a way that they will remember for a long time to come. Make it significant. A turning point. Take them off site, bring in a speaker, challenge them somehow. This is about ensuring you have their attention.

Action Plan Execution Workshop

During this session be sure the team are aligned around delivery of key goals and actions. Especially in making themselves accountable for the performance achieved in certain areas of the business, usually their teams. This accountability is really key and is only signed and sealed when they establish and begin to report on the KPI’s for their area. Watch carefully in your first few Implementation Review Meetings for who is clearly making themselves accountable. Intervene quickly where you do not see this. (More on this later).

Let them prioritise and prepare for any key challenges and opportunities to ensure execution of the plan. But be clear before this session where you have ‘no compromise zones’. This is a moment of truth for the plan. There must be significant aspects which cannot be easily achieved. You must make it clear that these challenges have to be overcome.

Encourage them to constructively challenge each other and to build out the details to create a fully executable plan. Challenge process should ensure no one has soft targets and also that no one is over stretching what’s really possible with the time and resources available.

Their task is to develop the tactics and actions that most effectively lead the organisation to achieve the Goals and targets for their area of the plan. The goal throughout this phase is for them to begin to action the things they commit to immediately. To begin a “New Normal”.

Other Articles in our Rescue, Recovery, Reinvent Series:-

Article 1 – Businesses That Plan Do Better

Article 2 – Business Strategy, Why Bother?

Article 3 – The Importance of Purpose, Vision and Values 

Article 4 – How to Predict the Unpredictable 

Article 5 – Sh!t Happens 

Article 6 – Why Competing “To Be The Best” is The Worst Strategy Ever?

Article 7 – Strategy is the Value You Promise To Your Customers

Article 8 – Value Chain – Why So Many Strategies Fail to Deliver

Article 9 – Mind The Gap – The Difference Between Action Planning and Action Doing