Whether you’re a superintendent for a local school district or a senior leader at a Fortune 500 company, strategic planning is central to organizational success. If you want to reach your intended destination, you have to map out the trip. Unfortunately, reaching your goals isn’t always an A-to-B proposition, and many businesses end up taking the long way around.
Worse still, most of these businesses never recognize that there’s a problem. They just keep doing the same things over and over again, hoping for a different result. If you’re tired of riding the proverbial merry-go-round, just waiting on a plan to come together, take a look at these 5 tips for successfully implementing your strategic plan.
1. Engage your employees
According to McKinsey & Co., only 23 percent of companies use a formal strategic planning process, and 52 percent of companies rely on a small group of senior leaders to make key decisions. The problem with this process is that it overlooks the “little guy”: The mid-to-low level employees, the frontline staff—the people who actually implement the strategic plan!
If you want your plans to succeed, you have to engage employees at all levels. Not only will these employees provide invaluable insight into challenges and concerns you may not have considered, but they’ll also become emotionally engaged in the process. When your staff — again, the people who will execute the plan — are emotionally engaged, the chances of successfully executing your strategic plan increase exponentially.
2. Keep all your teams connected to the plan
But don’t stop there, keep the lines of communication open throughout the process. From the word “GO!”, your entire company should know that strategic planning is underway and it’s all hands on deck. As the process moves along, keep everyone updated and informed of the current situation. Communication at all levels of your organization is essential.
Believe it or not, Harvard Business School says two out of three HR and IT departments develop unique plans outside of the overall company strategy. Perhaps these plans are more all-encompassing of what that particular department needs to be successful, perhaps not. The point of this statistic is to shed light on the fact that all departments need to communicate with one another: Voices need to be heard; feedback must be acknowledged; and unique departmental requirements should to be incorporated into the planning process. Consistent communication can keep everyone on the same page and prevent conflicts from occurring before the official strategic and operational plan cascades down from senior management.
3. Prepare the organizational culture for change and innovation
Not everyone on your staff, or even in management, will immediately get on board with the strategic planning process. Forward-thinking strategies often trigger a sense of alarm in the organizational culture and managing change is all about teamwork and communication. People get set in their ways; they know what they’re doing and why, and any change to that process can be scary.
When the organizational culture is clearly at odds with the strategic goals of your company, no amount of strategic planning will dig you out of that hole. If change is perceived to be a top-down initiative, and the global perception is that little consideration was given to the “little people,” then prepare for possible push back. In other words, if employees haven’t been involved in the planning process, and a brand new plan is seen as being “aggressively implemented” against the will of the organizational culture, you really shouldn’t be surprised if your plan isn’t received with open arms.
4. Discuss your strategy honestly
As part of the strategic planning process, communicate why these changes and innovations are necessary to the company’s success and why the benefits will outweigh any perceived risks. By involving employees in the thought and decision-making process, you help them understand your overall goal while mitigating their fear of change and the unknown. Most importantly, you make your available to get their honest feedback the direction of the strategic plan.
5. Strategic plan implementation: Manage and prioritize projects
It’s important that your employees understand the basis of your strategic process. In addition to communicating the rationale behind the organization’s goals and objectives, it’s imperative that you involve employees in the projects and actions required to meet these goals. This not only helps them better understand the strategic planning process, but it also increases their commitment to success. Be sure to prioritize projects in order of importance, so that your team doesn’t waste time on lesser tasks or complete tasks out of order.
The importance of straightforward, all-inclusive strategic planning is clear: By engaging all levels of employees from start to finish, you increase your chances of shifting organizational culture to gain the full support of your team — and succeed in improving your business.