Essential Steps for Implementing a Successful Strategy

by Michelle Todd

How many fingers and toes do you have? I have ten of each and could easily use them to count the amount of times I have seen a strategy fail to be successfully implemented within an organization.

Most organizations are good at creating a strategy/long-term plan/grand design (there are many synonyms you can use), the challenge for those same organizations is successfully implementing and seeing them through. Each time I have unpicked the root cause, the same fundamental issues have caused the break-down in the first place. So, to save you some time and allow you focus on what’s important here are the essential steps for implementing a successful strategy.

Communication

You may have the best strategy in the world, but if you fail to communicate it you’ve failed to deliver. Communication is critical to success and needs to occur in two different ways.

First, you need to communicate internally. Your workforce must understand where your organisation is going and the steps you are taking to achieve those longer-term objectives. This focuses their attention towards activities that meet that end-state and provides clarity and consistency. It also empowers and invigorates your workforce as they can see the milestones and goals you are soaring towards.

The second is to communicate to your stakeholders and/or customers. While they don’t need to know the details behind your strategy, their understanding of your objectives is crucial, particularly those stakeholders that enable or drive some of your organisational activities.

Accountability

The next crucial area to focus on is accountability. Having specific functions, individuals or teams responsible for the delivery of your strategy drives their motivation. In contrast, there is also a need to hold those same functions/individuals or teams to account (the true meaning of accountability) when they fail to deliver.

Too often I have seen excellent strategies fail to be implemented or executed simply because no one was responsible for delivering the objective. The reality is, it won’t happen by osmosis, it needs to be driven.

Dedicated Resourcing & Prioritisation

Here’s the catch – with all the good intentions your organiaation may have to achieve the strategy’s objectives, you will need to resource it adequately. This means prioritizing those objectives and dedicating resources towards it. Invest, invest, invest.

If you want to achieve that end-stand, bite the bullet and decide what you need to slow down or stop doing in order to achieve it. By spreading your organiaation thin and failing to prioritise, you become a jack of all trades and a strategy master of none. This will require robust conversations and decisions, but it’s what your organisation will need to do in order the meet the goal.

Introspection & Adjustment

The strategy of last year isn’t the strategy you’re looking for. Too often organiaations develop and broadcast a strategy and leave it withering on a shelf or website.

To ensure you’re on track, those dedicated resources need to spend time doing some introspection and reviewing how the organization is tracking. There is nothing better than a dose of the ol’ devil’s advocate. Review, refine and adjust where needed. A strategy should never be considered static, it should be and is dynamic, just like your organiaation.

Measurements

Never let a bad KPI get in the way of success. Create meaningful and measurable key performance indicators to measure how your organiaation is progressing. Most people are aware of the SMART principles, which are valid – here’s a few more:

Keep it clear
Make it relevant
Needs to be comparable
Ensure its verifiable
Identify an owner
Remember it can be dynamic and can change

If you can develop good KPIs, you’re well on your way.

Involvement & Devolvement

The last area of focus is to involve your workforce and devolve responsibility as far down as practicable. The more an organization can harness a workforce to deliver the strategy the better.

Empower those same individuals by devolving responsibility, giving them the autonomy to deliver the strategy, while being held accountable. Power to the people.

If you’re able to consider these critical steps keeping the areas of focus in mind when developing and executing your strategy, then your organisation is well on its way to successful outcomes.

As Margarat Thatcher said “Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.”