Success Keys to Implementing a Strategic Plan

How can you guarantee implementation of your strategic plan?

Every organization has a strategic plan. Implementing that plan is what often proves difficult. Brent Douglas and David Woods, GiANT Partners, talk about three keys to effectively implementing your strategic plan within your organization.
David: If you're a leader inside of an organization, whether that's a department head, a division head, senior management, or an actual CEO or owner, you have some kind of strategic plan that's either in your head or it's on paper. Every organization has that in some form or fashion. What most people don't realize though is that once they have that plan, implementing that plan becomes the real difficult part of the job.

So what Brent and I are going to talk to you today about is three keys to successful implementation. Think of them as three ways to ensure that you actually move the needle on the strategic plan that's either in your head or on paper.

Brent: The first key is really understanding what are those handful of things that you need to drive as an organization that are going to result in the majority of the growth. I'm sure you've all heard the Pareto principle. That holds true in organizations whether you're for profit or non-profit, just like it holds true in other areas of life, right.

Twenty percent of the activity typically drive about 80% of the results. It's been our experience when we go talk to organizations that have experienced rapid growth from here to here and we ask them what happened during that time period. They probably did thousands of things during that time period, but there were typically only a handful of those; maybe four or five key initiatives or things that they focused on during that period that drove the majority of growth.

So one of the keys to moving that needle in the first key is understanding what are those four or five things, those handful of things that are going to drive the majority of the growth.

David: The second key is the ability to understand that nothing big is going to happen without a cross-functional process. What I mean by that, in every organization there are actually departments. In a lot of organizations they call them silos, right, with walls between, and nobody's allowed to move from one to the next. To truly move the needle, as what Brent's talking about, you have to teach the organization how to work sideways through the organization; large projects with cross-functional teams. So think of all of those silos, but think of another set of groups around those, as the chart indicates. Those are your big initiatives that are truly going to move the needle. Very seldom does an organization actually grow itself just by one department doing well. It takes that cross-functional coordination around big, big projects that are truly going to move the needle.

Brent: So the third key to successfully moving the needle is to make sure that you as a leader are regularly reinforcing the importance of the strategic plan and those handful of initiatives that you defined. And you do that by making sure that you're having regular communications and you're getting regular feedback from those cross-functional teams that are driving activity. If they don't ever hear you ask the question how things are going, then they're going to be left with the impression that it's just not that important to you, and that's the last thing you want to do. It amazes me how many organizations we deal with that when they talk about previous strategic plans that failed, and you ask a simple question like how often did you meet or talk about those things. And you get blank stares, meaning that they came up with a great plan, but from then on they never really talked about it.

And so one of those keys is that regular communication. We recommend at least on a monthly basis, or every six weeks, you should be getting the group together, getting those teams together and talking about the progress on that strategic plan.

Think about it this way. What's you reinforce is what you're going to get in the organization. So if the organization never hears you ask another question about the strategic plan, the impression they're going to be left with is that really we spent a lot of time on it back three months ago, but it's really, I guess, not all that important, because no one's asked me about it since. So you've got to make sure as a leader to regularly reinforce the importance of those things that you're trying to accomplish in the strategic plan. And you do that through meetings and holding those teams accountable.

David: Adding on to what Brent said, when those groups come in to actually report on their progress one of the things you have to understand is you have empowered them. Meaning their role when they come in is to talk about where were they, where are they now, and where they're going. So as a leader your role is not to drive that team. Your role is to empower that team to do what they think needs to be done. They know what needs to be done. So that your role becomes, I love where you are. How can I help? That's what servant leadership sounds like on the fly. Not, "hey, where are you on that project?" The real trick in this is making sure those teams are empowered and they begin to hold themselves accountable to move the needle.

Brent: So if you just follow those three keys, if you are very clear about defining those handful of things that are going to drive the bulk of the growth in the organization. If you are very intentional about making sure you adopt cross-functional teams throughout the organization, like David says. Don't focus down on the silos, but focus across the organization.

And then lastly, if as a leader you stress and reinforce the importance of the strategic plan and have a communication system in place that you're asking for regular feedback, you're going to move the needle in your organization. We can almost guarantee it.

GiANT Partners

GiANT Partners grows organizations by growing the executives who lead them. They grow hearts. They grow minds. They grow executive skills. They grow the significance that comes when everyone is on the same page.

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