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Myths of Strategic Execution & How to Break Free

(posted: March 27th, 2018)

Where is your strategic plan?

How long has it been since you looked at it?

Do your people, from the executives through the interns, know what the company's strategic goals are?

For most businesses, from tiny, two-person consultancies to mid-sized firms to the big companies, turning their strategic plan into action and then results is...hard.

You would not be the first, or the last, business leader whose strategic plan has been stuffed in a drawer and mostly forgotten.

Crafting a strategic plan is certainly not easy, but it tends to be done during scheduled time set aside for just that purpose, often physically away from the office, and often with a neutral outsider facilitating the process.

Execution of the strategic plan, on the other hand, requires communication, focus, allocation of resources and constant, regular commitment.

3 Myths of Strategy Execution

Myth: A Good Strategy Automatically Results in Effective Execution
Truth: You can't assume that execution of your strategy will naturally follow, with people seeing and understanding the benefits and the logic of the plan. Execution takes hard work, clear communication of actions and benefits, and buy-in by managers and front-line staff.

Myth: A Strategic Plan is Sufficient On Its Own
Truth: You will never get your strategic plan accomplished without some plan for execution or implementation. It doesn't have to be complicated, but it should include specific actions, assigned to specific people, that are expected to happen within a specific time frame.

Myth: Execution Means Sticking to the Plan
Truth: No plan, or executive team, can anticipate every event that might get in the way of executing the plan as written. Leaders and employees at all levels need to be able to adapt in the moment, dealing with unexpected obstacles, or taking advantage of unforeseen opportunities. Strategic priorities can change, even when the overall strategic objective remains the same.

Okay, so your strategic plan is pretty much not even worth the paper it's written on if you can't get the work done. So, what do you do if you haven't looked at or thought about your plan in months?

3 Steps to Get Your Strategy Execution Back on Track

Don't panic, we can get you back on track with a little time and effort! Remember that a strong sense of where you are going, combined with specific steps and actions, will create a kind of magic of purpose to speed your success.

Success without a plan...is just an accident!

First, Make Time to Review Your Current Plan

Go over your strategic plan and/or goals with your team, or take some time to think about what you intended to do this year. These questions can help with your review:

  • What have you achieved that you can celebrate now?
  • What values are important to the team and/or the organization?
  • (If you have a plan) What has changed since you created your original plan? How will you address these changes?
  • Update (or do) your SWOT analysis. Just taking the time to think about Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, at a team level and at an organization level will help shift your focus to become more strategic.
  • What do you need to accomplish by the end of the year to feel successful?

Second, Answer the Following Questions:

  • Which goals (choose no more than 3) would make the biggest difference for me/my team/my organization at the end of this year? These are your Critical Few that you'll focus on to make the most impact.
  • What do we need to reach these goals? (Resources, support, training, etc.)

Third, and Finally:

  • Write down the specific next steps that will lead to achieving these goals (make sure they are SMARTer: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timed, extending, rewarding).
  • Who needs to be involved? How will we communicate clearly to all?
  • Determine and document who is responsible for which actions, and decide how you will hold each other accountable.
  • How will you evaluate your progress and measure your success?

David Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech University, has found that individuals who write down their goals will have nine times the success of those who don't put their goals on paper. Yet Dr. Kohl's research suggests that only 20% of our population has goals and less than 10% take the time to write their goals down. So why is it that so few of us take the time to develop and make note of clear and concise goals?

Plan Your Strategy AND Your Execution to Succeed

My most successful clients schedule strategy check-in sessions with me throughout the year. For some it's quarterly, for others once in the middle of the year is enough to keep them on track. Sometimes we turn the meeting into a half-day or full-day event, sometimes it's an hour-long conference call with the major stakeholders. But these clients succeed where others fail because they understand that they have to actively pursue, reinforce, and even modify, their strategic plans more often than once every three years.

I am here to help! Call (650) 578-9626 or email me, and I'll create a strategic check-in tailored to your needs.

Challenge Yourself
  • Have you revisited your goals and plans for the year?
  • What does your written plan for strategy execution look like?
  • For those with a plan, what tips would you add for readers struggling to execute their own plan?
  • For those without a plan, what points in the article were new or surprising to you? Which are you likely to try?

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