I once had the pleasure of compiling a strategic plan for a Client, only to receive the complaint that I had put forward the previous year’s plan in error. Having not been involved in the previous year’s strategic plan, I was a little perplexed. On further investigation it became clear that the “new” strategic plan that the Team had put together was indeed very similar to the previous year’s plan. The underlying issue was that the previous year’s strategy had not been executed … at all. A year lost, and a year in which competitors had sadly covered a lot of ground. In short, too many strategic plans fail because, once approved they proceed directly to “file 13”, never again to see the light of day.
How does one ensure that strategic planning actually results in tangible benefit? Some thoughts in this regard follow.
- Strategic plans are often drafted as “high level” documents and not broken down to the tactical level. For a strategic plan to have legs, it needs to be broken down to the tactical level … something that the staff that need to do the actual delivery can relate to.
- Make sure that there is sufficient funding available to allow your Team to deliver against your strategic plan. Your strategic planning should be done before the annual budgeting process, to ensure that there is sufficient budget available to make execution viable. Oddly enough, I have seen any number of cases where the annual strategic planning has been done after the budgets have been set!
- Make sure that the staff that are accountable for delivery of your strategic plan have the necessary skills to guarantee success. In my experience, the primary skill required to deliver against a strategic plan is the ability to project manage in a cross functional context.
- There needs to be alignment between the tactical layer of a strategic plan and the KPIs of the staff that are accountable for delivery. Staff must have a clear understanding that their performance with respect to delivering against the strategic plan will be taken into account with their next Performance Appraisal and will affect their financial well being.
- I have frequently worked in environments that do not have a culture of delivery. For the sake of your business’s long term ability to deliver on its strategic vision, it is essential that a culture of delivery is developed.
- Ensure that tasks are allocated to staff that carry the appropriate levels of authority to allow them to succeed.
- Regular progress reviews must be done, and performance, or the lack thereof, must be managed accordingly.
- Someone needs to own the overall plan. That someone should be the Chief Executive Officer or the Managing Director. The owner of the strategic plan needs to take complete accountability for its successful delivery and should be incentivised accordingly.
- A strategic plan is a “living document”. It should be frequently reviewed to continually refine it. Strategic plans should be “versioned” documents.
- Frequent reviews of performance relative to the strategic plan are essential. Every two weeks or monthly sounds about right. I have seen cases where strategic plan performance reviews are done quarterly or biannually … and by the time you work out that delivery is falling behind it may well be too late to affect a recovery.