Too often, business leaders proclaim a failure and irrelevance of strategy. Plans are drawn up, presented at board meetings and then left to collect dust on desks and shelves. The un-executed strategic plan has become a symbol of expensive, pedantic exercises which cost time and money, but fail to make impact. Companies that fall into a mode of whimsical initiatives and pet projects which don’t make sense to investors or employees, pulling the company into multiple directions. But business leaders and strategists can work together to prevent this situation. Here are six simple ways to make sure your strategic plan remains relevant and gets executed.
Create Consistency. Strategic plans which list a set of unconnected ideas and priorities risk sounding like a dog’s breakfast. Instead, make sure your company is pursuing a set of actions which move in a common direction. A strategic plan should articulate a vision and goal and include multiple actions and priorities which move towards achieving an outcome. Priorities and investments which move in the same direction create synergistic benefits and momentum.
Start With Culture. Company culture is the secret sauce that makes things work. A culture which values action, promotes transparency, empowers employees and encourages communication provides kinetic energy to the plan. Culture is the soil which helps set projects in motion. Leaders must treat culture as the brand’s promise to its employees. Culture enables the strategy to be executed, allows people to play their role in getting things done and also provides an outlet for voicing concerns and issues when the plan isn’t working.
Use Data Wisely. With data analytics tools and larger data sets available for mining and analysis, strategists face a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is to measure and analyze the most important and relevant data and ignore the noise. The opportunity is that when data is used to make decisions and measure results, everyone will be able to understand what is important and know what they need to do. It is the opportunity to make the plan relevant and measurable for everyone who is involved in its execution. Strategic plans should identify the key data points which act as indicators of success.
Embrace Agility. Companies that deliberate for too long in their planning and obsess about precision in their decision-making won’t be able to keep pace. The competition wins by setting plans, trying, failing and course correcting quickly. Startups sprout up with fewer resources and nimbly capture market share. Larger companies must make decisions quickly, act faster and accept imperfect, but good enough, plans which can be refined over time. Agility also means re-evaluating plans more than once a year and course correcting when needed.
Focus on Customer Experience. Strategy should be guided by customer needs, not theory or political agendas. Companies, which address pain points, solve customer problems and create a memorable and remarkable customer experience will win. Strategic plans that are customer and market driven will enhance the brand and ultimately drive revenue.
Communicate Again and Again. When plans are not communicated, they won’t be executed. Strategic plans need to be presented, shared and explained at every level vertically and horizontally. Until every employee from the front line to the CEO can sensibly explain the plan and how their role is affected by the plan, strategy won’t matter. When every employee understands the plan and knows how their actions align to it, the strategy becomes a force. Most companies underestimate the amount of communication needed to help their employees understand the strategy.