Having a great strategy, industry breakthrough or game-changing product can catapult your organization to the mainstream market, but only successful strategy execution can keep you there. Can you deliver your intent? Most companies can dream big and create a vision, but cannot execute. Robert Kaplan and David P Norton recently reported in the Harvard Business Review that 95% of employees are unaware of — or do not understand — the strategy for their organization.
This lack of understanding is a significant reason that a huge majority of good strategies will fail, with some studies reporting that up to 70% of good strategies fail strictly due to poor execution. Less than 50% of employees can state what their organization’s strategy entails, and even less believe the strategy is considered ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’. At the end of the day, an organization is not judged by the quality of its strategy but by its results.
The starting point for any strategy is defining exactly what it is you want to accomplish. The ideal for managers within an organization is to find a plan that is “just right”. If the plan contains too many steps it can become overwhelming, it’s considered “too hot”, and conversely if it is lacking in detail and is too vague, it’s “too cold”.
So, how can you find a solution that is “just right” for your organization? Here are 5 steps to consider when executing on your organization’s strategic plan.
Step 1: Visualization
One of the most important and constant challenges when implementing a strategy is simply understanding what exactly a strategy is. An effective way to improve this understanding is to visualize the strategy through an illustration that shows both the important aspects of the strategy and how each step relates to one another and ties into the overall goal; we call this visualization a planning cascade. Ask yourself, do we have enough clarity about the vision, the strategic priorities, and the results the company wants to accomplish? Is it clear enough why these are important? Are your organizational structure, processes and systems well aligned with the new strategy and goals?
Step 2: Measurement
Key elements of the visualized strategy should be tracked via easily understood KPIs. The full set of KPIs can be organized into a dashboard so that your organization can determine progress. Ask yourself, do we have the necessary business information and metrics to execute our strategy and measure progress? Are KPIs already identified for the organization? How successful has the measurement been in the past? Do they need to change?
Step 3: Tracking
Keeping tabs on the progress of your strategy is key to ensuring you’re on the right track and helps keep performance aligned with the vision. Strategy execution is much like sailing a boat toward your planned destination. If you don’t know where you’re headed before you depart, you’re less likely to know when you’re off course. However, keeping your finger on the pulse of the implementation by tracking your KPIs will allow you to make the necessary corrections as conditions change.
Step 4: Reporting
Tracking also allows you to have reports ready for your executives or board members. Be sure to capture all on-going projects during the implementation of your strategy to ensure all players are on the same page and the duplication, or misallocation of tasks and resources are nipped in the bud before they cause problems. Using an automated reporting tool empowers you to consistently tell your story while saving you time.
Step 5: Performance Management
Your team is the backbone that drives your organization to strategic success, and as such, it is necessary to nurture and develop this team and to keep them engaged with the big picture goals of your organization. Take full advantage of every opportunity to provide your team with coaching and feedback so they know exactly how their work contributes to the organization’s overall achievements. When an employee recognizes the role they play within the organization and the impact of their contributions, they are more dedicated to achieving success.