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Everyone Knows Execution is Important – So Why Do We Fail to Execute?

Strategic Planning Expert

By Denise Harrison, Vice President

Execution of strategy: we know it is important, but why doesn’t it happen? Based on my experience working with over 100 companies on strategy development there are four key areas that lead to execution success.

  1. Focus on the few:
    1. Select a few – 8-10 key strategic objectives to accomplish in the next 12 – 18 months. No more than 10! Don’t fall into the trap of “We have to do this!” and end up with 12 to 15. It is better to work on a few rather than work on everything and get nothing completed. Four to six is even better, especially if the objectives are large.
    2. Once you have selected the key objectives, then develop action plans that are detailed roadmaps of how you will accomplish these objectives:
      1. What are the action steps (granular detail)?
      2. Who is involved with/responsible for each step?
      3. How much time will each step take?
      4. How much money will each step cost?
  2. Balance your resources:
    1. Now you know the amount of time and money for each objective, do you have enough resources? Do you have the right resources?
      1. Often the required financial resources are clarified in the budgeting process
      2. The human resource aspect is often lightly considered (if at all) and this is where many implementation plans go off-track.
        1. Understand that your people have day-to-day activities that help the business run in addition to the projects that will position the company for future growth; you have to balance these requirements so that both are accomplished.
        2. If you find that you do not have the resources to accomplish your action plans, evaluate how you can
          1. Delegate (both routine as well as project activities)
          2. Eliminate (routine and/or project)
          3. Reduce (routine and/or project)
          4. Postpone (project only – you can’t postpone routine activities; they just don’t happen)
        3. The operative word here is balance!
  3. Monitor your progress:
    1. Monthly have your action plan team leaders report on their progress to the strategic planning team
      1. Work with the team to relieve bottlenecks if projects are behind
      2. The strategic planning team should be able to help reduce bottlenecks – use this meeting as a solution-finding meeting rather than a way to assess blame. The team should be working together to move things forward.
    2. If new projects come up, then evaluate each project in the context of what has already been selected.
      1. If the new project is more important than one of the current key objectives, then add it, but be sure to take one away.
      2. Do not pile objectives on top of one another – sometimes we assume that we have hatched new resources during the year.
      3. Do not evaluate new projects in isolation – evaluate them in the context of the projects that are already on your plate. If the current projects need to stay on the list, save the new one for next year’s strategic planning.
  4. Communicate early and often
    1. Communicate the strategy and key objectives to all employees
      1. Make sure that communication is clear and concise
      2. Make sure the communication is two-way (see article: Lessons Learned in Aligning an Organization -Two Way Communication is Key)
        1. Give employees a way to react
        2. Have them prepare what their departments are going to do in support of the strategy and key objects – make sure the communication is two-way.
    2. Communicate frequently and update when changes occur.
    3. If everyone in the boat has his/her oar in the water and everyone is rowing in the same direction as the company, it will move forward quickly – outpacing the competition.

Efficient strategic execution is paramount to outperforming your competition during this recovery phase of the economy.  If you accomplish these four steps you should achieve over 90% of your objectives within the timeframe selected.

Denise Harrison is Vice President of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  She can be reached at harrison@cssp.com.