Don’t Be Scared of Strategic Plan Execution!

Make it happen by doing two simple things…

How many times have you seen phrases like “strategic execution” or “plan execution” or “strategic plan execution” and thought, “Sheeeesh, that sounds so…overwhelming!” Searching on the key words, "strategic planning process" you get no fewer than 243M results. But if you do the same search on "strategic plan execution" you get 59M results.  While 59M is a lot, there seems to be a healthy discrepancy between those two numbers. What it might be telling you is that everyone is curious about strategic planning but strategic execution is far less popular.

Why is it far less popular?

It’s not uncommon for people to be happy enough with just putting together a plan. After all, at least you can say you did a plan. 

And most organizations stop after that step. But, why? 

Actually executing a plan seems overwhelming. How in the world are you going to get the entire organization to follow a single plan? There are so many departments, teams, leaders, managers and individual contributors…how could you possibly marshal all those different motivations, needs, agendas and goals to pull in the same direction? And if it was possible to do that, how would you do it? 

It’s actually quite easy and can be accomplished with two very simple steps:

  • FIRST - Get people involved.
  • SECOND – Communicate with them… constantly.

These two concepts aren’t rocket science. They’re both fairly easy. It’s just when we start thinking about things too much that we get intimidated.   

Two Simple Steps

Let’s start with the first step - Getting people involved in making the plan. Why is this so important? Without involvement, buy-in is almost certain to be at risk. And buy-in is the number one thing you need to get everyone to do what they are able to do in their job to pursue organizational goals. It’s just a people-thing. People need to feel like they’ve had a say; like they’re part of the puzzle; that perhaps without their input, things might not go as well. They need and want to feel a part of the effort. 

And what’s wrong with that? I mean, in anything significant in life, any accomplishment, any relationship, any part of being a team, people want to contribute and make a difference. Why not let them?

Nine times out of ten the reason that getting people involved doesn’t happen is because the people at the top think they have all the answers. And they might. The problem is, whether they have the answers or not, they can’t be responsible for every level of the execution. It’s impossible. There just isn’t enough time in the day to make that kind of thing happen.  No matter how flat an organization is.

You have to trust the people you have hired to help you. And if you don’t trust them, you have a people problem and an HR issue, not a plan execution issue.

The follow-up to getting people involved is the second step- Constant communication.  It is the golden arrow of the big, red business target objective. Without regular, real-time communication, it’s almost impossible to stay on track  - with anything. You need to keep people informed about what others are doing to help achieve goals and you need to ask that everyone involved with the plan take responsibility for letting others know what they are doing.

This requires a trust level that might be hard to achieve in many companies. But regular, honest and real-time communication means that everyone is a part of keeping tabs on progress. And everyone is a part of pitching in if something goes wrong. This kind of open communication means you can’t penalize people for being honest and you can’t violate their trust when they are vulnerable in front of their teams.

Communication aligns the organization and helps everyone to see the same path to the future.

So two simple things: involvement and communication.

There are a variety of tools and methods to make both happen but the first and most important thing is for the leaders to make these priorities. Once the mindsets of both the leaders and followers change, and once people understand they are trusted to be a part of the process from the goal setting to the goal achievement, plans begin to happen.

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Andrea Gibbs

Andrea Gibbs

A natural born communicator, Andrea has a way with words. Clever, articulate, and genuine, she always brings a sense of clarity to our meeting discussions and brainstorming sessions. Andrea’s expertise in facilitating and training others in organizational strategy, implementation, and communication has benefitted countless for-profit and not-for profit organizations as well as numerous MBA students in her classroom. In fact, Andrea is at her best when she’s leading us through strategy conversations dry-erase marker in hand. Fluent in French with a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics as well as an MBA from Thunderbird - ASU, she’s helping us execute our own strategy each and every day.

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