You assembled your team, identified your desired state, and recognized the potential roadblocks. In other words, you've worked hard on your strategic plan. A strategic plan is your organization's roadmap to lead you through the current realities and set the stage for new areas of innovation and growth. As such, you need a plan that is built for execution.
So what happens when you aren’t executing? How do you salvage a plan that seems to have lost all momentum? The first step is understanding what’s going wrong.
Here are 4 places to look first:
- There is no visibility of the plan
You spent all this time engaging your teams and putting everything on the table to build your game-changing new strategic plan, and are storing it in a… hold on, this can’t be right… a binder? That example may be dated, (I hope!) but if your plan isn’t visible for all stakeholders to keep track of it may as well be in a binder on the shelf. How can your teams execute on your strategy if they don’t know where to find it? We personally use our in-house software called Playbook Edge to track our plan, but at the end of the day there are countless different online tools for you to use that will ensure that key strategy owners can reference your plan wherever they are. Try this out for a quick assessment: Ask someone you work closely with to explain what your strategic plan is. If they don’t know, ask them where they can reference it. (Then apologize to them from me for making you put them on the spot.)
- You don’t have clear metrics in place
Think about it this way: You are running a marathon. You are 24 miles in and are really feeling it. Unfortunately for you, you have no way of knowing how close you are to the finish line. For all you know, you could be 10 miles in, and you don’t stand a chance. Wouldn’t it be incredibly helpful to know that you are a few miles away from accomplishing an incredible life milestone? On the flip side, if you were only 10 miles in and losing momentum, wouldn’t you want to adjust your pace to ensure you are set up to succeed in the long run? (No pun intended.) I think you get where I am going with this. It is so easy to lose sight of progress when you don’t know how to measure it. How can you build momentum on something that is impalpable? When you review your strategic plan, ask yourself, “How will I know when I have completed this part of the strategy? Is there an easy way for me to see my progress, and pivot if needed?”
- Your teams don’t know what part they play
“Who is doing what, by when?” If you aren’t familiar with this question, here is your chance to write it down. How many times have you missed a deadline because you didn’t know there was a deadline? Have you ever been asked to update progress on something that you didn’t know you were supposed to be leading? When it comes to your strategic plan, do you know what you individually own on the plan to ensure its success? Often, teams leave a strategic planning session with an exciting destination for their organization, but no roadmap to get there. On the flip side, when you are working with a team that is fired up about the part that they play in the success of your organization, people feel responsible for their piece of the puzzle, and in turn, will feel pride in the results they can achieve. In my line of work, the solution often looks like someone speaking up at the end of an exciting meeting, and saying, “So what are our next steps? Who is going to own this?”
- The internal or external environment has changed, but your plan has not
Have you ever found yourself feeling like your strategic plan is irrelevant? Maybe it just doesn’t seem realistic anymore, or it really made sense on day 1, but you are 3 quarters in now and more important things have come up. This is a wild one, but maybe you just lived through a world-wide pandemic and your business has completely changed. In today's reality, organizations need to pivot fast on strategy. Strategic planning should never be seen as a single event, but an ongoing way of reviewing our internal and external environments to ensure we are making the right decisions for our organization. How often do you have a scheduled time to sit down with your team and chat through the relevance of your strategic plan? Do you give yourself the freedom to edit your plan when environments warrant change? If you are a leader in your organization, you have the opportunity to show your teams that changing a strategic initiative does not mean failure. Waiting out your year-end so that you can put together another plan that won’t last a whole year, on the other hand…
If you are curious about how our strategic planning process is focused on execution, you can learn more here.