While many companies spend a good deal of time developing a great strategic plan, the daily pressures of operational issues often cause many companies to postpone doing what is needed to realize the value of this planning. The most important outcome of strategic planning is to instill strategic thinking in the organization which leads to strategic action by management. But often strategy implementation gets derailed. Why does this happen? Poor communication! Below are some of the key ways to ensure you and your staff are on the same page:
- Share the strategic vision. Management may know the strategies but they need to be shared with everyone down to the field personnel.
- Ensure all the stakeholders are involved. All individuals or groups, both internally and externally, that have an interest in the organization succeeding or failing, must be involved in the planning and in the implementation.
- Align implementation to the strategic vision. Ensure there is a direct correlation between the strategies, goals and the operational activities.
- Look at strategic planning as a process. The typical time frame for a strategic plan is a span of three years. But the plan is not static! Successful organizations have a mechanism to review, update and correct the plan. Especially in the current ever-changing environment your plan must be a living, breathing document because it's almost impossible to anticipate what's important to work on even one year in advance. In fact, it's really a series of rolling three year plans, always updated as the first year progresses and a new year is added on. Projecting goals anywhere beyond the first year will not be taken seriously by your staff unless they are continuously updated.
- Managing the process. Appoint someone to champion the planning process. Ensure you have the internal resources to implement the plan. If not, identify the resources you need. The three most important reasons to consider an external consultant are need for a high level process, organizational development skills and an objective outlook.
- Have each department develop an action plan. A well developed implementation plan has specific measurable goals, timelines, responsibilities by person(s), resources and reporting status.
- Focus on the top high leverage goals. No organization has unlimited time and resources. Focusing energy on the highest priority goals to get the biggest bang for your dollar.
- Hold people accountable. You can have the best plan and the best people but unless people follow through and someone keeps them accountable, you have wasted your time and money!
Strategic plans really do help companies develop valuable strategies, goals and tactics that motivate staff around the vision, mission, and values of an organization. If used as a way to foster communication and inclusiveness throughout the organization they can build a stronger company. Follow the steps above to ensure you eliminate the pitfalls to strategic planning success.
Linda Hanson, CMC, is a certified management consultant and author of 10 Steps to Marketing Success. She writes, speaks and consults on marketing, management and customer service issues and can be contacted at www.llhenterprises.com. Sign up for her free newsletter The Superior Performance Report.