Strategic planning is hard work. It takes a lot of effort to produce a good strategic plan, so it is important to implement the plan that you produce. In fact, implementation is the most important part of strategic planning.
To fully implement your plan, it should touch every area of your organization. If it doesn’t impact every area of your organization, then it’s not a strategic plan. To have your plan impact every area of your organization, it must be fully integrated into the entire organization. The integrity of your plan depends on how well the process of implementing your plan fits together. If your implementation is compartmentalized—and not integrated throughout the entire organization—that will kill your strategic plan.
Here are five parts of the process of implementing your strategic plan that need to act in concert with each other.
Your entire leadership team needs to be on board with the strategic plan. If they don’t support its implementation, then the plan will likely fail.
To encourage their buy-in, it’s important to involve them in developing the plan. If they help to develop it, they will help to implement it.
It’s paramount that you lead by involving your team instead of telling them what you will do. They will be much more supportive of what gets decided if they get to be part of the process.
Your strategic plan needs to apply to all departments. Every department must feel that they have a stake in the success of the strategic plan.
Departments that are not customer-facing can feel less enthused about helping the organization reach customer-focused goals. You as the leader need to help everyone in the organization see why these goals are important and how the goals matter to everyone on the team.
It’s also important to explain why each department should focus on the entire organization’s success instead of solely their department’s success. Silos will kill a strategic plan. Make sure that every department sees it’s their responsibility to contribute to the organization’s success.
If achieving your strategic plan is important, then that should be reflected in your budgets. You must allocate monies toward the implementation of the plan into the organization’s budget.
When it comes to strategic plans, good intentions are not enough. They must be acted on. Budgets are a real way to measure how serious you are about accomplishing the plan.
It’s good for you to appropriate funds for the plan’s accomplishment, but it’s even better to help each department leader see the need to carve out monies for their department to put the plan in place.
To keep focus on the implementation of the plan, it’s best to keep everyone apprised of the success of the plan. Provide regular updates of how the organization is progressing.
If you do not share updates about the plan, then your team will think it’s not important. After all, out of sight is out of mind. The plan needs to retain mindshare on your team to accomplish its success.
When you keep the plan in front of everyone, and everyone understands the importance of achieving the plan, that creates excitement and encourages further momentum for the plan.
The most important implementation action is accomplished through regular meetings. When meetings are run well and accomplish the intended purpose, they become powerful tools to advance your strategic plan.
Use your meetings to inform everyone what is being done within each department to advance the strategic plan. Also, use your meetings to determine how each department can be helpful to each other to accomplish the plan.
Meetings have a bad reputation. Most people don’t want to attend meetings because they have been run poorly. But meetings, if done right, can be the most efficient way to use everyone’s time.
Key Takeaway: "What has to change?"
Strategic plans are big commitments but they also are useful tools. They can help focus an organization to achieve much more than they thought possible. But it is essential first to think through what needs to change within your organization.
Take the time in advance to set your organization up for success. Provide an environment for the plan to be successful even before you start on developing your plan. You will be glad you did—and so will the rest of the organization.
How integrated is your strategic planning process within your organization?
Robert McFarland is the author of the bestsellers, Dear Boss: What Your Employees Wish You Knew and Dear Employee: What Your Boss Wishes You Knew. Robert is also President of Transformational Impact LLC, a leadership development consultancy helping companies make ideals actionable.