Monitoring the Process
If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll probably wind up somewhere else. Even with a clear implementation plan it’s possible to lose track of whether you are accomplishing your goal. For example, imagine the challenge faced by the engineers of the American transcontinental railroad. The strategic vision was that coast to coast rail transportation would unite the two halves of the country. The Central Pacific and the Union Pacific Railroad Companies began with the intention of meeting somewhere in the middle. They did ultimately succeed when the last spike was driven on May 10th, 1869 in Promontory Summit, Utah.
The two companies were united by the same strategic vision, however, successful implementation was difficult and extremely complicated. They actually did not agree upon their final meeting point and therefore passed each other by 200 miles. It took a resolution by both houses of Congress to determine the point at which they would meet. Literally, the two companies did not know where they were going – and consequently they wound up someplace else.
During the period of time between annual strategic planning cycles, monitoring the process is a must
The same holds true for each planning cycle. Between planning sessions, the team leader must monitor completion of assignments.
Progress on the objectives is dependent upon following through on the resources committed. Therefore, monthly review of the Action Plans, which drive strategic change, is critical for accomplishing the objectives.
A quarterly review of their assumptions, strategies and implementation plans is also a must. This is how we keep the plan moving forward and adjust the course and direction if required.
Tourist in New York City: How do I get to Carnegie Hall?
New York Resident: Practice, practice, practice!
Repeating the strategic planning process is one of the biggest levers for long term success. After completing your initial planning effort, your team will be enthusiastic about their new ability to shape their future. They will then be executing the action plans and monitoring the process for one year.
Upon repeating the process the following year, they will naturally see ways to make the plan better. Perhaps they will realize that there were gaps in the market and competitive information. Their assumptions about the future will need to be modified. Additionally, they may find new elements to include in the process or new opportunities that deserve their attention and resources.
Along with increased facility with the planning process, your managers will ask more insightful questions about your company’s future success
They will downplay the “tactical noise” in the business environment and therefore focus more on the “strategic direction” of your enterprise. This skill will result in a richer and clearer strategic planning document. Furthermore, it will carry through in your managers’ ability to prioritize both their short and long term decisions and activities. Thus leading to the team being more effective in executing the action plans and monitoring the process in the future.
Just as piano performance improves with practice, your management team’s performance will improve with each iteration of the process. Performance in this important cycle of business management just might yield a standing ovation at your next shareholder’s meeting.
Note: This is the fourth and final post in a series of posts from Tom Ambler’s article Strategic Management: 3 Steps to the Cycle of Success originally posted in Compass Points. The first post introduced the series. Read it here. The second post discussed planning and gave a sports analogy. Read it here. The third post discussed implementation. Read it here. For a more complete understanding of strategic management, attend the Simplified Strategic Planning Seminar.
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