How many times has this happened to you in your organisations?
You have invested a lot of time and money in preparing a strategic plan.
You ended up with a strategic plan that you could be justifiably proud of, that laid out a clear vision for your organisation, clear goals and objectives, and detailed strategies.
Then something seems to happen - or in fact, nothing seems to happen!
Somehow, over time, the strategies don't get implemented, or they are half-finished, or at the end, they seem to have evolved into something that was not in the strategic plan.
Here's how to move from formulating strategy to implementing strategy.
I organise strategy implementation into the four-C's which stand for: -
- Cascade; and
Let's take each of them in turn because the phases of strategy-implementation fall roughly into those four stages (but also bear in mind that sometimes you have to go back in order to go forwards).
The first is to Clarify.
Your strategic plan and included strategies must be clear, not only in the document but also in the way it is explained to everyone on a day-to-day basis.
Is what is written in the plan high-level motherhood statements, or do you move toward more detailed down to earth language that everyone understands.
You may have a strategy that is "to provide a high level of engagement with our community". This can mean a lot of things to all people and your staff may interpret it differently on a tactical day to day level.
Worse your stakeholders may take a different understanding of it and expect things that are not delivered, causing frustration and mismanaged expectations.
Isn't it better to say "to meet with the community every 6 weeks and provide them with detailed updates on our activities" if that is what you really mean?
You should view your strategies as clear instructions on how to behave so that people know what to do to implement the strategy. The strategies should provide clear choices for people - "do I choose tactic A or B? Which will implement the strategy faster and better?"
In order to be clear, you don't only need to use clear language in your strategic plan, you then need to ensure the smooth implementation of that strategy by ensuring progress is measurable against Key Performance Indicators (KPI's).
KPI's are measures of your progress.
You create a strategy to attain an objective of a goal that will get your organisation to its vision. Each goal may have 2 or 3 objectives and each objective should have a strategy (or part of a strategy that will also attain another objective.
For example, if an organisation has a vision of being a responsive organisation that provides an important service to the community, then one of the goals may be "to provide requested services quickly and efficiently."
This goal may have two objectives:
- To ensure that services get to those that need it; and
- To ensure that people who need the services don't have to wait too long.
Each of the objectives may have its own strategy, for example:
- Implement a database system that records all enquiries and provides daily reporting of progress; and
- Design service delivery procedures that allow delivery of the service quickly and efficiently.
You should have a KPI for each of those strategies, perhaps:
- 100% of people requesting a service is entered into the database and reports are produced about the delivery of the service every day; and
- 85% of people get their service in 5 days of request and the rest get the service in 7 days.
Both those KPI's can be measured so that the implementation of each of those strategies can be designed to achieve those KPI's. The desired end-result is clear.
The second C is to Communicate.
This means you must consistently publicise, discuss, and drive focus on the strategy.
As soon as the strategy has been formulated your organisation needs to communicate that to the whole team, explaining not only what it is but also what it is expected to achieve and how everyone is expected to assist and focus on the strategy.
This cannot be a once-and-forget speech. People have to see that it really means something so this communication has to continue consistently. Bring it up in team meetings, in Board meetings, in newsletters and barbeques.
However, in order for it to really mean something, the way the organisation works also has to change so that people see that you are serious.
You need to align responsibilities to working on the strategies and achieving the KPI's. People need to be made responsible by reviewing their job descriptions and their individual KPI's and performance reviews should measure how they work toward implementing the strategy.
The organisational structure may have to change to put people specifically responsible for implementing the strategy, systems and procedures will have to be revised so that they reflect the strategy being implemented.
There is nothing worse than establishing a KPI that the system cannot meet.
For example, if one of your KPI's was as referred to above "100% of people requesting a service is entered into the database and reports are produced about the delivery of the service every day" but nobody is made responsible for populating the database and the system does not capture requests from people, then there is no reality in being able to achieve the KPI.
Ultimately, resources and budgets may have to be revised so that appropriate resource is provided to the implementation of the strategy.
One of the most important aspects of communication comes from the leadership.
Leadership drives behaviour.
If all the staff see is that the leaders talked about the strategy once and then went back to business as usual, they will pick up on the cue and do the same.
Leaders have to set the standard at strategy-implementation by doing things to implement the strategy, and to talk about doing those things.
The third C is Cascade.
This is the act of translating high-level strategy to day-to-day tactics.
Once the strategy is set and the KPI's are defined, management and staff need to ensure the "how" is thought through and step-by-step action plans are completed.
In the above example, when will a database be purchased? Who will be given time to populate it from existing records and how long will they have? When will the job descriptions and systems be changed?
Each unit or person in the organisation should have certain responsibilities that are required to be met as part of the implementation of the strategy. Talking about it will not get it done.
Make sure that what is required of individuals is action-orientated - "enter the names and addresses of all the people" rather than "ensure the database is complete".
Clarity applies to tactical actions and responsibilities as well as to high-level strategy.
Link performance reviews to strategy by linking reviews of performance on these day-to-day important tasks.
The fourth C is Consistency.
Amongst everything else, it means you must keep working on the implementation of the strategy.
Small things that are done consistently every day add up to big achievements.
Good things that are done inconsistently are as bad as not doing them at all.
This means that you need to consistently communicate and discuss the implementation of the strategy. You need to carry on being clear about what is required. You need to continue reviewing systems and procedures to change any that are not aligned. You need to follow up with the tasks in action plans, and review performance on their attainment.
An important part of consistency is to implement a monitoring and review system.
This is a system that ensures information about progress is captured regularly (and consistently!) and results are discussed and changes to approach made.
A monitoring and evaluation system will keep KPI's and tactics top of mind, which will mean, in a reverse cascade, it also keeps the strategy top of mind.
Make sure that from the outset you create systems and responsibilities to capture data and decide how often a monitoring team will meet, who should be on the team, and what the agenda for each meeting will be.
Feedback loops will have to be put in place so that the results can be discussed and any necessary changes made so that the implementation of the strategy can be improved.
A standard Strategy Report should be produced regularly and consistently providing a standard set of information about progress.
There is nothing worse than investing a lot of time, energy and resources into formulating strategy and then ignoring the implementation of it.
Good strategic plans are an important asset of an organisation and proper attention should be paid to them.
The four C's provide a framework to move from "what" to "how" to "done"!