We’re in the business of strat planning here at StrategyBlocks, so it might strike you as odd that we are willing to tell you enough is enough. Of course it is all well and good to have a perfect and meticulously laid out strategic plan for your business, but what good is that plan if the implementation and execution phases are stalled?
Too often, we see businesses focus almost exclusively on the planning. In reality, if you don’t know how to execute, there is no point in planning! The truth is you are hardly alone in the struggle to transition from a well laid plan to strategic execution, and the pitfalls for most companies are eerily similar:
Loss of energy/enthusiasm:
Strategic planning is a concentrated and much shorter process than strategy execution. It keeps everyone involved and focused throughout the conception and brainstorming stages, as they are more appealing and exciting. As execution is over a much longer time period energy fades and enthusiasm wanes, and too often other issues or opportunities are prioritized. Without an ongoing measure of energy and enthusiasm, there is little execution. The best way to avoid this happening is for management to keep the ball rolling and the team engaged. It is vital to have support for every level of the company to maintain focus and increase motivation.
Lack of understanding of accountability/responsibilities:
The strategic plan must be simultaneously supported by an execution plan. Often the strategic plan is easily understood, but when the plan moves toward action, there can be some confusion over who is responsible for what which can lead to overlapping or overlooking. Responsibilities must be agreed upon when venturing out into the execution stage, and managers must be clear on where and what they are implementing. Quality project management, structure, and involvement from every level is important in making this happen.
Lack of change management:
Strategic plans need to be flexible. Not only will external factors cause change, sometimes it is necessary to amend things along the line. What managers often fail to think about is how they are going to overcome and deal with this change and communicate across teams. Research by McKinsey says that 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. Handling change correctly is vital. Communication is key here, it is important to make sure there are regular meetings and discussions throughout the plan to keep on top of arising changes and encourage involvement throughout all levels in the decision-making process.
All of these issues relate back to company culture. Lawrence G. Hrebiniak, author of ‘Making Strategy Work,’ says that creating a culture of execution is the basic step to becoming more focused on execution or implementation. According to Hrebiniak, behavior affects culture, so creating behavior and performance programs is important to manage key decisions, actions, and capabilities. Creating and reinforcing behaviors related to execution will impact culture, and culture will reflect the execution. Leaders must spend time on creating strategy initially, but must then focus on the importance of company culture, management support and engagement within their organization and between their peers in order to turn planning into results-driven execution.