The meeting is ended and the Business Plan/Strategy has been approved. The management team is pleased with the outcome. The consultants have produced a glossy document with both verbal and visual graphics showing the rationale for the plan/strategy. Many days of debate and data analysis have delivered a compelling plan/strategy. The figures show growth, increased market share and healthy profits and cash.
Delivering a Business Plan
A year later the management is in trouble. The plan/strategy never got going and in fact the glossy strategy document is gathering dust and sits unopened since the strategy meeting twelve months ago.
Each business function has been busy and performing well yet the results are not as planned. There is an air of resignation as in each of the most recent years the business has failed to execute on plan. Has this happened in your organisation? Why is this happening and how do we ensure the next plan/strategy is a success?
There are many answers to this situation which is all too common in organisations. A few important steps will increase the probability of executing the plan.
For any plan or strategy to succeed there needs to be active and sustained communication throughout the organisation. By this I do not mean e-mails or letters, I mean real face to face communication where people can see and hear what is happening, why it is happening, how it will happen, when it will happen, and how it will affect them. This communication needs to be open and inclusive. People need to be able to voice opinions, concerns, and objections. Such discourse should be encouraged. People will have a chance to better understand what is happening and can obtain clarification. Management can foresee where blockages may occur or be able to placate some resistance.
Always ensure that people who work remotely particularly sales people are included in communication events.
You may have the best plan/strategy, the best systems, the best technology, and the best resources for your business. However, without people who are engaged and committed the best will not be good enough.
Therefore communicate… communicate… communicate…….
There will be people in an organisation who are vital to the delivery of a plan. It is important that such people are identified as early as possible in the process and invited to actively engage in the planning stages. The more involvement people have early in a process the better. They become part of the solution rather than part of the problem later on.
Some of the complexities of daily operations of an organisation are not appreciated by those in management positions and engaging with people who engage daily at an operational level will highlight issues to be addressed before finalising he plan. This will save time in the long run and avoid amendments to the plan. Using the Business Model canvas is an excellent platform for creating a visual template and enabling thorough examination of the value impact of suggestions.
When you involve people at an early stage you often find a much greater commitment to executing the plan when the time comes. If this aspect is not undertaken yes people will participate. However, the participation is likely to be begrudging and the bare minimum is all that will be achieved. In my experience early engagement leads to far greater productivity and dedication.
In most plans planned activities cross functional divides. Sales targets may be dependant on Operations providing system improvements. Marketing may require resources from Finance.
To avoid delays and unnecessary friction it is best practice to form cross functional teams, with ownership for executing planned processes or projects. By doing this you enable essential parties to be continually be in the loop and aware of requirements from their function. Potential blockages should be seen early and resolved within the team. It is important that the team has joint responsibility and accountability for the project or process delivery.
Team recognition and rewards do no harm in keeping people focussed on achieving the strategic objective of the group.
Alignment is an aspect of planning that has come to the fore in recent years and needs to be considered when finalising a plan. Essentially, Alignment is about considering the parallels between plan/strategy and the workings of an organisation.
At one level the plan strategy needs to align to your customer value proposition. For instance if your Value Proposition was driven by Operating excellence a shift in your strategy towards Customer Excellence will not be accomplished without the correct skills and resources being in place. This kind of change would need careful planning and a transition programme in order that customers are not lost as the organisation modifies activities accordingly.
It is also best to ensure that functional managers and operating activities are correctly aligned with strategy. Functional managers will often give priority to operating activities that are only benefitting the function and not aligned with business plans/strategy. This can undermine progress made in other functions.
Executing plans/strategy invariably means change and while we are all becoming more accustomed to change there are still people who protect the comfort of daily routine disguised as functional essentials.
To maintain focus and drive the execution of a plan/strategy a structured and regular review process is required. In any good plan/strategy, milestones and performance measures will be established to determine progress.
Review meetings keep the pressure on for delivery of the plan. Each review should monitor progress towards the milestones and performance measures. Opportunity must be provide at these reviews to discuss blockages, resource issues, and to recognise achievements. Review meetings can be used as an acknowledgement platform where successes are shared. Equally, where difficulties are resolved it is appropriate to establish what has been learned which may be used in future situations.
Review meetings should not be “Blame” meetings as this will instantly demotivate people and lead to disengagement from the process.
This list does not guarantee execution of plan/strategy. There are other steps which others would include. Without these basic steps it would be difficult to expect execution of a plan/strategy.
Next time you look at he dusty document containing the plan/strategy consider if you followed any of the steps above to drive execution. If not, why not give it a try. You may be surprised.