While it is true that one of the benefits of investing the time to define a clear strategic direction is that it helps in decision-making, it is also true that it does not make decisions. That is the job of leadership.
A sound strategic plan will do provide at least these three things:1. Articulate where you ultimately want to go: the vision.
2. Set out a high-level story of how you ideally want to move from where you are today towards this vision: the strategy.
3. Provide deep insights into how your business model, organization, and capabilities need to evolve to make this journey successfully: the plan.
Everyone anticipates a degree of change at the start of a planning effort. These changes can 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. When the strategy dictates substantial change, acting on it during the first phase of strategy implementation is best, before the inertia of the status-quo makes shifts even harder.
The three most significant tough decisions at strategy implementation are:
- changes in the organizational structure,
- adding new competencies either by hiring new talent or through acquisition, or
- eliminating a legacy part of the business, combining product lines or functional areas so that they can more easily be managed, and resources freed up for new priorities.
Changes of this kind impact the people we work with and represent the toughest aspects of leadership. Here is how to go about making these significant changes quickly and with confidence.
- Clarify the rationale for this change.
- Why is this change necessary?
- What is its role in your firm’s future success?
- What results are you striving to achieve by making this change? Results are measurable and can be used to track and monitor this change.
- If successful, what outcomes would this change produce? Outcomes are less measurable but equally important. They could include things like making a visible commitment to change or increase confidence in future success.
- If you have core values, review them to help define how you will practice them as you implement this change.
- If you do not have stated values, define how you want to make this change. We must ....
- Review your management calendar. When will this change be least disruptive to operations?
- Review your commitments and those of the folks you will need to complete this change? Can you prepare in time? If not, what adjustments to obligations will be necessary to provide adequate planning for implementing this change as you would like?
- Do you know how to prepare? If this is new territory for you – if you have never designed and lead a significant change – hire the resources needed to guide you through this process.
It is never easy to make decisions that impact others, but putting off tough choices will only weaken your ability to succeed. Proceed deliberately using the process outlined above and take time to check in with the emotions you and your team are experiencing as you go. Honestly dealing with your own emotions will give you strength and integrity to deal with other's.
If your strategy requires a significant change, don’t hesitate. Prepare to lead this change with confidence and as quickly as possible for the benefit of all involved.