Strategy Execution

Secrets of Successful Strategy Implementation

Photo of someone with a finger to their lips

We know that local government and public sector organizations that work to execute on their strategic vision reap significant benefits–everything from providing better services, to optimizing resources, to building trust with their communities. However, it’s a poorly kept secret that many organizations fail when it comes to strategy. In fact, some studies suggest that as many as 90% of organizations fail to execute on their strategies successfully.

This is a devastating statistic, particularly in an era where almost every organization is coached to believe that having a strategic plan is a key tenet of organizational success. But having a strategic plan is not the same as implementing one, and many organizations spend time, money, and valuable resources developing a strategic plan only to fail at integrating it into their day-to-day operations.

If you’re one of those organizations looking to move from planning to action, don’t fret! We’re here to provide you with the secrets of successful strategy implementation, and to give you the tools and the technology necessary to move from planning to action.

Let’s get started.

Strategy Secret 1: Going From Planning to Action Requires Different Skills

Do you have a strategic plan, but are unsure of where to start? You aren’t alone.

In fact, this is where many of our Envisio customers start, and of course we understand why. There are many firms, tools, and technologies available that help with strategic planning, but very few that help with translating the high-level goals and ideas found in strategic plans (such as be more diverse or make our city more sustainable) into actionable tasks and relevant performance measures that help you achieve those goals and report on your progress to your key stakeholders.

At Envisio, we think that developing an operational plan, or an action plan, is just as important as developing your strategic plan. Because the fact of the matter is that the successful implementation of your strategy is going to require a completely different set of skills than the ones you used to develop it in the first place. You’re going to need to learn to think about how small actions feed into big ideas, how strategic priorities turn into performance measures, and how starting at the top is the key to engaging employees in all this hard work that you’re doing.

Don’t believe us? You can learn more about why you need a strategic plan and an action plan here. Don’t go too far though, because we’re about to reveal…

Strategy Secret 2: You Need to Get S.M.A.R.T.

We talk a lot about the S.M.A.R.T acronym here at Envisio, but that’s only because we really believe it’s the key to taking those ethereal, tough-to-measure parts of your strategic plan and translating them into things your staff can actually, well… do.

Let’s take a look at how our strategy implementation specialists at Envisio might go about taking a high-level strategic priority, such as Designing our Community for People and Not Cars, and turn it into something S.M.A.R.T.

1. Strategic Priority: Designing our community for people not cars.

1.1 Strategy: Convert more miles of existing roadways to “pedestrian and cycle-friendly standards”

1.1.1 Action: A 10% increase in the miles of current roads within the municipality that have sidewalks and bike lanes and meet the “pedestrian and cycle-friendly standards”, as defined in the Active Transportation Plan.

Using the template below, we have built out this action further to create a single action item that we have tested for the SMART criteria.

Image of Envisio Example Action Template for Local Gov

Strategy Secret 3: Successful Strategy Implementation Starts at the Top

Time and time again, we hear from our most successful customers that there is no substitute for passionate and invested leadership when it comes to implementing your strategic plan. Engaged leadership helps make strategy a priority, and putting your plan front and center will help make budgeting, alignment, and reporting on your efforts easier in the long run.

Engaging your employees can feel like a daunting task, but we know that organizations that work to engage their employees see higher productivity and lower staff turnover, so involving them throughout your implementation will help you get where you want to go much quicker.

Tactics for engaging your employees are varied, but we like to think that if you give them the opportunity to contribute to the strategic direction of your organization, maintain clear communication, and keep strategy at the forefront of discussions about your progress, successes, and obstacles, you can help expedite your implementation and make strategy a part of everyone’s job.

Finally, if you want to keep employees engaged in your strategic plan implementation, you’ll need to make tracking and reporting on their work as easy (or dare we say, as fun?) as possible. This is where a strategic software partner like Envisio can come in handy!

Strategy Secret 4: Measuring and Reporting on Performance is Crucial

Building and maintaining a performance management program is a much bigger process than we can outline in this blog-however, we do have a comprehensive performance measurement guide for that. Instead, what we’d like to focus on here is not so much the how of measuring and reporting on your performance, but the why of it.

To successfully implement your strategy, you need to know where you stand in relation to the goals and priorities set for you by your council members or key stakeholders–and you can’t do that unless you’re measuring your performance as you go about your work. We also want to stress that when it comes to implementing your strategy, it’ll be almost as important to understand what you don’t need to measure as what you do, since avoiding unnecessary measures (the kind that take up space in budget books but don’t really help you push your strategic initiatives forward) is an essential part of any effective performance measurement program.

After you have worked to identify which measures matter, and whittled away the ones that don’t, you will be able to use the data at hand, and the processes that you used to develop them, to present a snapshot of where your organization currently stands. A proper performance management program will also provide you key insights into areas such as resource allocation, so you can pivot, plan, and be proactive in how you go about solving problems and providing better service for your community.

“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it’s the same problem you had last year.” – John Foster Dulles

Measuring your performance isn’t enough, though. To truly harness the power of a performance management program and successfully implement your strategy, you need to communicate how you’re doing to your staff, your community, and your key stakeholders.

At Envisio, we are firm in our belief that a public-facing strategic plan dashboard is by far the most effective external-facing tool for reporting on your strategic plan implementation. A dashboard offers a comprehensive picture of performance, can easily be kept up-to-date, and is a valuable tool in promoting accountability, transparency with external stakeholders, and progress. Rather than burying the strategic plan in a forgotten corner of your website, a public dashboard places it front and center for a community to access. It’s an engaging way to communicate strategy updates and highlight the great work your teams are doing to make your vision a reality.

We also encourage you to develop an internal performance reporting framework that promotes accountability, transparency, and forward momentum. Quarterly–or even monthly–progress reports for different internal stakeholder groups will help keep work grounded in strategy, and let your organization remain agile as you respond to circumstances outside of your control. Whatever cadence you decide on, it’s important that you stick to it. Nothing erodes trust and transparency faster than failing to do what you say you’re going to do, and that starts with the regularity of your updates.

Strategy Secret 5: Leverage a Technology Partner

We know that all of this might seem overwhelming, and we’d feel remiss if we didn’t point out that all of this can be made easier by onboarding a technology partner like Envisio. Finding a purpose-built strategy execution and performance management tool, one backed by a team of passionate implementation specialists who want to help you move from planning to action, can help make a molehill out of this mountain.We know that local governments and other public sector organizations are often underfunded, and that technology can help make up for a lack of resources, manpower, or existing data infrastructure.

Let our team show you our strategy implementation tools by booking a demo and put yourself on the path to a successful strategy implementation.

If you’d prefer a deeper dive into strategic plan implementation, download our complete Strategic Plan Implementation Guide today.

Josh Elyea

Based in Toronto, Josh Elyea has been writing professionally for over a decade. His experience bridges the space between the corporate and the creative, and his portfolio includes everything from journalism and copy to fiction and screenplays.

Josh has a Master’s Degree in Literature with a specific focus on postwar American literature–a subject which has left him with a keen interest in the intersection between the stories we tell and the social, political, and economic consequences they grow from. He began his career with Enviso because he believes that the institutions that shape our society matter, and he’s excited to help build better and more trustworthy public sector organizations across North America.

In his spare time, Josh is a multi-instrumentalist, a Blue Jays fan, and an avid reader of fiction.

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