Making the execution of your strategy the primary focus of your long and short-term plans is a key differentiator between the success and failure of many organizations.
If the execution of your strategic plan is an afterthought, rather than one of the most crucial steps at the outset of your project, there’s a good chance you’ll be putting fires out before your plan is even in motion. Are you formulating your strategic plan around your organization, the audience you wish to reach, or both?
Plan for what won’t change
According to Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s Founder and CEO, focusing on what won’t change in the next 10 years — rather than what will change — can help guide your organization to the long-term success you so desire. If you build your strategic and operational plans around the things that are least likely to change, the chances you will have to drastically modify your strategic initiatives decreases.
“When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it,” says Bezos
As we have discussed in previous blogs, many executives believe they are effective in their strategy execution, but their employees have very little idea of what exactly the company’s strategic plan actually encompasses, or how their tasks relate back to the overall strategy. You may have a strategic plan, but do you have an operational plan? So what are some of the defining factors in the successful execution of a strategic plan?
Step 1: Project alignment
Once projects are prioritized within an organization they must then be aligned to the strategies or goals of the organization. This step entails comparing each project, either present or future, to corresponding strategic goals to determine if alignment exists. If it doesn’t you will have to re-prioritize the projects and resources.
Step 2: Management
Organizations must develop strengths in project management if they are to execute their strategies effectively. In some settings, projects receive little — if any — management and in others, projects proceed way beyond their scheduled completion, drawing on resources meant for other projects. The totality of projects in any organization should be coordinated and controlled by a person — or a group — with the responsibility for monitoring both progress and performance.
Step 3: Communication
It is difficult to execute a strategy when the strategy itself isn’t well understood, or performance relative to the strategy is not tracked or communicated. Leaders must communicate their visualized strategy to their employees in ways that will resonate with employees and communicate the why behind the strategy. Employees need to understand not only what needs to be done, but why. Plus, we know that employees who are engaged in their work are more satisfied in their roles. Keeping your employees updated on the progress of the strategy via graphs and charts will allow them to feel more in-tune with the overall goal. Ask yourself: How do we monitor progress and success? How do we report and communicate results? Is data presented graphically to help visualize trends and easily share with the boards you report to, and employees within the organization?
Step 4: Employee alignment
In a small company, it’s not difficult to know what other people do on any given day, however, as organizations grow, it is critical to define each employees responsibilities so there is no confusion as to where one person’s begin and another’s ends. Employees want to know they are making a meaningful contribution to their organization’s success and that their work is valued. This is perhaps one of the most critical aspects of the execution process because without people, there is no plan. Ask yourself these questions: Do your employees understand their role in achieving the organization’s strategy? Am I and my senior leadership team empowering them with the resources, knowledge, and tools they need to be successful? Are my employees committed to achieving this strategy?
Step 5: Rewards and recognition
In strategy execution, as in any other area of leadership, what gets measured gets done. Taking it one step further, what get measured and rewarded gets done faster. Employees who feel they have a purpose and feel they have contributed to a goal bigger than themselves are happier than those who do not feel connected. Ask yourself this question: Is our compensation system aligned with the achievement of our strategic goals?
Can you define strategy execution?
Strategy execution is easy in theory, but difficult in when implemented in real life. There are many reasons for this, but one of the big hindrances to success is that many leaders don’t know what strategy execution is or how they should approach it, so they jump in blind. Their approaches are generally incomplete if they fail to incorporate many of the basics highlighted above and without proper strategy execution, you may be left with a great vision, but no way to implement it.
Customize your strategy execution
While there is no guarantee to the success of your strategy’s execution, these five tips can greatly improve the odds and give you guidelines on which to base your own strategy off of. Pairing these tips with others to create the right plan for you will help solidify what the right implementation strategy is for your organization.
Don’t let past failures define your organization’s future
Many leaders of organizations have strategy execution as one of their biggest fears of failure, and based on history, rightfully so. Don’t simply hope for a good roll of the dice when it comes to effective strategy execution.