With a strategic plan complete, the leadership challenge switches from strategic thinking to strategic management. Fundamental to the successful management of a new strategic direction is an organization's ability to guide strategy implementation while managing the current plans and commitments. In this series, I will take you through four steps to guide any organization through the first critical months of strategy implementation.
1. Align management processes with influential external cycles.
Brilliant strategic plans are the product of dynamic strategic thinking, which opens up the mind to new ways of looking at your business, its market, and the dynamics that may influence future success. When teams engage in strategic thinking, they discover new factors that could impact future success. These factors could be new insights into competitive pressures or emerging forces on customer preferences. These newly discovered or freshly identified variables may point to additional cycles affecting the business, and its planning. After planning these influential cycles should be examined and integrated into regular management cycles to leverage these external forces, proactively in planning and priority setting. READ MORE
2. Show commitment by making tough decisions.
A new strategic direction always means a change in the status quo. These changes could be incremental with little impact on the current team and relationships, or they could be significant. Significant changes often include modifications to roles, reporting structures, or even eliminating positions. Changes which affect people are complicated to act on because we care about the lives of those we work alongside. It is never easy to make decisions which could hurt someone, but putting off tough choices is often perceived as a leadership weakness and can be a contributing factor in why strategic plans fail. The three most significant tough decisions at strategy implementation are changes in the organizational structure, adding new competencies, or eliminating a part of the business or combining product lines or functional areas to free up for plans and priorities. READ MORE
3. Sort emerging issues from plan obstacles.
As operational folks bring plans to life, they will identify issues, trends, and realities overlooked during strategy development. They could also identify completely new and just emerging issue requiring a degree of strategic thinking. Clarifying which of these issues are obstacles to be resolved by more detailed planning and which may be significant enough to modify strategic priorities is a vital aspect of guiding strategy plan implementation.
The goal is to be mission-driven and market responsive, but this is a balance hard to strike so we have three practices to build this core strength into your planning and managing processes. First, share strategic goals and the thinking for these goals fully as you begin implementation. Then, schedule regular times to explore possible emerging issues and evaluate their potential impact on your strategic goals. Finally, don’t be afraid to tact and re-prioritize to address an emerging issue. Don’t toss the plan out; modify it and stay focused on your end-game – the vision. READ MORE
4. Connect progress with the plan at mid-year.
In the first few months after introducing a new set of long-range goals, attention to it can wane. It is usually too early to see the significant changes to the activities most of the organization is engaged as detailed implementation planning is still in progress. However, it is highly recommended to involve everyone in the strategic plan again mid-way through the first year to keep the commitment to it and its potential changes from its top of mind.
At the six-month mark, present the long-range plan again and call out the teams that are working on the first strategic objectives. If there have been immediate changes made as a result of the strategic plan, acknowledge them as part of its implementation in action. You might also ask what change others see as a result of the strategic plan. Making the time to reconnect with your plan, even in the early days, will refuel excitement and momentum in progress on it.
These leadership disciplines improve how a new plan is embraced during the critical early months after a strategic plan. There will be more details on each in future posts. Look for them and embed them into your management practices to make the next cycle of strategic planning more effective.