When you break it down, strategic planning is a deceptively simple concept. You just identify your desired goal, map out the steps needed to get there, and start walking… right? Not exactly. There’s a little more to strategic planning than meets the eye. But, if you don’t know what to look for, you could end up making one of these three key mistakes — all killers of strategic plan implementation.
1. Mistaking aimless productivity for strategic accomplishment
There’s no question that your team needs to be productive to be successful. However, productivity alone does not guarantee you’ll reach your goal. In fact, without a proper strategy in place, productivity just for the sake of productivity often results in nothing more than wasted motion. And, as Ernest Hemingway once said, “never mistake motion for action.” In other words, everyone may look busy, and it may seem that things are being accomplished, but — in terms of reaching your organization’s goals — you’re really just spinning your wheels.
Strategic planning is about prioritization and getting the right tasks completed in the best possible order to guarantee success.
And, following on this line of thought, this may require putting certain projects on hold temporarily, or even abandoning them completely. After putting time and money into a project, it may seem counterproductive to walk away, but successful strategic plan implementation is all about eliminating waste and focusing your efforts on the tasks that will take you one step closer to your goal.
2. Getting caught up in deciding what’s important
When you start prioritizing projects in terms of importance, it’s hard not to step on a few toes. Everyone likes to think his or her contribution is important, and being told another project rates higher — or that a long-standing project is no longer on the table — can be quite a blow. If prioritization devolves into a petty argument over whose contribution is more or less important, you’re going to have a hard time getting everyone to buy into the implementation of your strategic plan.
The solution? Instead of trying to decide which projects are more “important,” perhaps a better approach is to decide which projects will more immediately contribute to the achievement of your long-term goals, and focus the collective efforts of the team accordingly. Remember, it’s not about completing “important” projects one after the next; it’s about moving through projects strategically on your way to the end goal. It helps to make sure everyone understands this before moving forward.
You need everyone on board. After all, “A strategy, even a great one, doesn’t implement itself.” — Jeroen De Flander
3. Not recognizing the need to act
We’re in the mood for a couple more quotes to help us illustrate this particular hurdle in strategic planning: According to an old Japanese proverb, “Vision without action is a daydream.” In other words, all the strategic planning the world won’t do you any good if you never put the plan in motion. We know how easy it is to get so bogged down in the decision-making process that an actionable game plan never develops, much less goes into action. Remember, great leaders have to make tough decisions. Be confident enough to make the tough calls, no matter how complex the problem, and no matter how great the chances of failure.
Strategic planning isn’t necessarily an A-to-Z proposition with one direct, easily mapped-out path. Sometimes, you have to walk a series of paths to reach your intended destination. The trick is deciding the specific and strategic order in which those paths must be completed for optimal success.
And, don’t forget to monitor progress and reevaluate your strategy from time to time. Strategic plan implementation should always be followed by an accurate reporting of progress and an ongoing analysis of results. Adjusting your strategy in real time is the true mark of an agile organization. Are you having challenges aligning your team with your strategy and supporting your managers with the data they need to make quality and timely decisions? Envisio can help. Learn how today.