Good preparation is crucial to good strategic planning – but you can’t finish without a robust strategic implementation program
There’s little doubt that strategic planning yields solid benefits for growth-minded companies.
According to one study by Balance Marketing Group, companies that deploy strategic planning initiatives are 12% more profitable than companies who don’t.
But preparing a strategic plan is only the first step. Once complete, leaders still need to execute it.
“Planning and building planning cohesiveness is important, but it’s equally important to build a scoreboard that shows company stakeholders whether or not your company is winning with its implementation,” said Tara Chrisco, director of People and Organization Development at HORNE.
Eight Best Practices to Implement a Strategic Plan
While the best planning programs originate with solid preparation, the execution of strategic directives will define whether the program will be successful.
Boost the chances of success with these strategic planning execution tips:
- Fully fund the strategic plan rollout. Depending on the size of your firm, sufficient human and financial resources are needed to execute your strategic plan.
Consequently, when you transition from strategic plan to action plan, make sure an adequate budget is attached to the rollout. The budget should be constructed with the implementation timeline, staffing and key performance indicators (KPIs) necessary to the success of the initiative.
Rory Tyer, director of HORNE Accelerate, said costs for developing and implementing a strategic plan can begin around $10,000 and go on from there. Some variables that can affect the costs include the size of the company, the scope of work and if leaders hire a facilitator to help.
“We often talk to leaders who wonder whether it’s worth the investment to bring in outside facilitators to help with strategic planning,” he said. “I usually talk them through the cost of making mistakes, leaving out critical data or failing to implement the plan they come up with.
“These costs are almost always higher than bringing in an outside voice who can help ensure a successful process and execution accountability.”
- Build your team. Companies create strategic planning teams in various ways, but the most common – and likely the most successful collaboration model – is building a team that’s specifically tasked to run the plan execution.
A good, cohesive strategic team can include a C-suite executive to lead. Then, add high performing managers and staffers with proven skills as change agents.
Once it’s put together, a central focus should be to task each member with a specific responsibility (i.e., a marketing manager who handles communication to company stakeholders or a technology specialist responsible for handling strategic planning data.).
Perhaps most important is ensuring each planning team member takes ownership of executing the plan.
“That ownership may be delegated from the C-suite to each department, but the ‘ownership’ philosophy should be emphasized and tracked across the strategic planning team,” Tyer said.
- Hold regular consultationsBuild knowledge and accountability through regular meetings, getting the strategic planning team together at least once a month.
Meetings allow planning managers to track progress, celebrate achievements, correct mistakes and ensure the implementation is moving forward. Company leaders should meet once per quarter to take a bird’s-eye view of the implementation and to confirm broader strategic management policies are on track.
- Hold stakeholders accountable. One mistake companies make – even when they do a good job of laying out a company-wide strategic planning initiative – is holding high-level decision-makers accountable for not putting the plan into action adequately, or not implementing the plan at all.
Moving from planning to execution also means holding all stakeholders responsible.
“When you’re implementing a strategic plan, everyone – from the CEO to the newest employee – should feel ownership to keep it moving forward,” Tyer said. “Unfortunately, companies can make one of two mistakes. Either they don’t clearly assign responsibility for strategies, therefore there is no key ownership and accountability, or they fail to communicate the plan effectively.
“This leaves people in the dark when they might otherwise be active contributors. It’s not just the responsibility of those with titles.”
- Tie your strategic planning initiative to a memorable date on the calendar. Robust strategic planning initiatives are good examples of change management and that change should be recognized on the calendar.
“Since the plan implementation date marks the pivot from planning to execution, kick off that implementation phase off on a date like the first working day of January or after Labor Day weekend, when staffers are back from summer vacation,” Chrisco said. “Having a memorable strategic planning start date celebrates the shift in company planning and should be noted a big deal.”
- Have your managers ready to lead the strategic planning effort. When putting a strategic plan into action, task front-line managers with setting the example for everyone.
Yes, management’s priorities will be on delegation of strategic planning tasks, but it’s equally critical for them to be the face of the strategic plan rollout. That usually means answering questions, clearing execution roadblocks and taking on the challenges that a planning initiative will experience.
As the rollout accelerates, make sure to check in with staffers and listen to their concerns and feedback.
“That can be done in the form of regular progress reports on a weekly or monthly basis or even opening up a Slack channel that’s focused strictly on the strategic planning implementation,” Chrisco said.
The more visible managers are on a planning rollout, the more successful that rollout will be – and the faster results will occur.
- Stay the course but be open to adjustments. While you’ll want to follow the guidelines laid out in the planning phase, things happen with big initiatives and leaders should be ready to adjust as needed.
“Company managers need to be objective and not be held to biases,” Tyer said. “For company decision makers leading a strategic planning implementation, the key is being skilled in running a big company-wide initiative and being able to read and interpret data. That makes it easier for the strategic planning team to “know as they go” what is working with the planning rollout and what isn’t – and adjust accordingly.”
- Track everything (especially your KPIs). Knowledge is power when it comes to strategic planning implementation initiatives.
And that knowledge comes from key performance indicators. KPI metrics offer a range of data to planning leaders including individual staffers, entire company departments and the entire company as a unit.
Consequently, team leaders need regular access to KPIs, with an eye for reviewing and assessing key data points. Team leaders should track these indicators using digital dashboards that enable them to share data with the entire team.
Work With an Experienced Strategic Planning Partner
If your company doesn’t have team members with the knowledge and experience to develop and implement a strategic plan, try working with a third-party vendor like HORNE to create, plan, implement and track your strategic planning program.
At HORNE, we know that businesses need a strategic plan to map out their short- and long-term goals, but that’s only part of running a successful company. HORNE has the experts and resources to help a business determine its direction and map out a method for success.
Our strategic consulting services include:
- Strategic planning and execution
- Business exit strategy
- Data and technology solutions
- Growth strategies
- Project management
- Process improvement
- High-performance hiring
- Leadership coaching/essentials
“Our strategic consulting services help clients become anticipatory, think through options and manage change from the inside out, so they can direct their futures – and not have their futures directed for them,” Chrisco said.