SECTION: PLANNING

02342104 Checklist for Successful Strategy Execution

Published: 03.04.2014 |
Last Updated: 03.04.2014
carmichael
carmichael
Tony Roe

TRE Strategies For over 10 years Tony has worked as a consultant, coach, facilitator and trainer providing services to a range of clients in private, semi – state and public sector organisations both in Ireland and overseas. His work has given him a full understanding of the...

After a lot of hours spent developing your strategy and drafting a strategic plan, producing the desired results can often be difficult and for some organisations in the not for profit sector, as in many other sectors, beyond their reach . It is disappointing to have put so much effort into planning and then not get the return expected; it is even enough to make you wonder is it worth doing again.

There are many reasons why organisations don’t successfully execute their strategic plan and it is impossible to address every one of these in this short article. However, there are a number of checks that can be made on completion of the plan to help you determine whether you have provided a solid platform for seeing the plan through to completion. 

Working through the checklist, you will notice a number of items that you may have already addressed in the planning process – well done. There may be other items that you haven’t given very much consideration to and you need to decide whether overlooking these can contribute to preventing your strategic plan from being executed.

So what are the items that, once addressed, will improve the likelihood of success?

1. Your strategy is clear, cohesive and understandable

The well-crafted strategy is useless if it cannot be understood. It is like building a stairs without the bottom steps, it will get you nowhere. Clarity means it can be easily explained, not just to the senior staff but to staff, volunteers and stakeholders.  The question about cohesiveness relates to whether goals, objectives and activities move the organisation along a common path or in different competing directions. Just think about two rowers in a boat rowing in different directions and spinning around – a lot of effort and going nowhere. 

2. Your organisation structure supports delivery of the strategy

For some of the projects and actions identified in your strategic plan it might be obvious who will take responsibility and who will participate on teams, for others it may not be so easy to identify who will be involved. Assuming that ‘somebody will take it on’ is not going to move you closer to a successful outcome and should be avoided. On a larger scale, it can pay dividends to take your organisation chart and overlay the strategic objectives and projects against it, highlighting gaps or a need for an organisation restructure.

3. Budgets have been allocated to strategic initiatives

As with the previous item, strategic initiatives which are not supported by an adequate budget will not be successfully delivered. This can be the elephant in the room and may require a difficult revisit to the  budget and reallocation of scarce finance, but will certainly focus everyone’s minds on whether the strategic plan as it exists is to be delivered.

4. Competencies required to execute the strategy have been identified and will be available

Competencies required to deliver the plan can often be overlooked whereas some forward planning can ensure your organisation is prepared, whether through training, recruitment or contracted expertise.

5. The strategic plan is communicated throughout the organisation 

In many organisations the strategic plan is the preserve of senior staff and doesn’t get communicated to staff members and volunteers. There is a great value to sharing the strategy, providing a context to changes, and tapping into this reserve of knowledge so that decisions and behaviours support the true direction. Communications should be frequent - not a once off process, and questions should be encouraged.

6. Strategy review meetings are held regularly and are not focused on operational issues

Building strategy review meetings into your schedule gives life to your strategic plan, keeping the important to the fore.  Make a conscious decision that time will be set aside to assess progress against strategic objectives without allowing operational issues to set the agenda. Just like the mariner, you need to have some way of knowing if you are starting to go off course.

7. Staff understand the strategy and their role in delivering it

Understanding the role you play in the organisation’s plans can motivate and help make sense of why certain decisions are being made. The organisation will benefit more if staff members can identify their contribution to the overall plan.

8. Individual and team objectives are linked to the strategic plan

Building on the last point, linking individual and team objectives to the strategic plan can be difficult to achieve but can deliver dividends and move strategy execution to another level. 

9. Managers and staff are committed to delivering the strategic plan

Lack of commitment can easily derail attempts to achieve the strategic objectives and needs to be identified early in the process. In some cases the lack of commitment may be due to misunderstanding or confusion around the strategic plan and can be corrected quickly. In cases that commitment is due to disagreement with the strategic direction and actions, which sometimes happen at management level, work needs to be done to turn this around.

10. Strategic plan reviews are conducted to keep the strategy current and on course

Having put a lot of time and effort into developing your strategic plan there should be no need for it to be subject to continual change. However, it will be necessary to step back periodically to check is the strategy still relevant and the best approach to delivering the mission. Don’t allow the dust to collect on your strategic plan, conduct a formal review at least once a year to check if it still appropriate.

11. Strategic initiatives and projects are given high priority

You have defined the key initiatives and projects which are crucial to achieving your goals. If they are not given high priority, it is unlikely that plans will be achieved. To successfully execute your strategy these initiatives and projects must be more than ‘something we will get to after we have done everything else’. If, for whatever the reason, this is the mind-set, it might be time to revisit your strategic plan and conduct a reality check. 

12. Project management capability is strong throughout the organisation and best practices and proven methodologies are consistently used

It is not unusual for organisations to wrestle with many projects and keeping projects on course requires skill, foresight and flexibility. By building up expertise in project management you increase the likelihood that projects will be delivered on time and within budget, removing a lot of the chaos which can arise as deadlines approach.

In addition, there is no efficiency in recreating the wheel every time a new project is launched. It wastes too much time and deflects effort from moving the project on. By incorporating best practices and proven methodologies into projects and activities you will create efficiency and grow the organisation’s knowledge base. 

13. The organisation culture will support strategy execution

The old saying – ‘culture eats strategy’ is a powerful reminder that culture can be ignored at your peril. Where the strategy is relatively stable or changes incrementally, the culture will most likely support your plans. But where the strategic plan requires significant change, hard questions need to be asked at the planning stage as to the organisation’s readiness for the change.

14. Support, coaching and feedback will be provided to staff members so that performance levels are attained

Maintaining ongoing communication and support will increase the likelihood of strong performance and successful strategy execution. Remember that a manager’s role in the organisation is to do everything possible to help employees succeed. 

15. Reporting systems allow easy monitoring of strategy execution and highlight any unwelcome trends

By keeping progress visible, action can be taken to prevent plans from getting derailed. Whatever software you use to collect and report performance, empower employees by making performance information easy to access and timely. 

 

Whilst some of the items outlined above have probably been examined in the strategic planning process, there may be a risk that others are overlooked, resulting in your strategic plan not being set up for success.

 

For ease of use, this list has been summarised in the checklist below. Take a few minutes to examine where you are in terms of preparedness. It should quickly highlight any of the barriers that your are likely to face and help you to close what is commonly known as the execution gap.  

 

 

My Top Tips
Top Tips
1
Recognise that many organisations fail to pay sufficient attention to strategy execution and fall short of their goals and objectives
2
Don’t allow your strategic plan to gather dust, make it part of what you do
3
Share your strategy with employees and stakeholders
4
Periodically test whether you are doing the important things required to deliver your goals and objectives
5
Make sure staff have the right level of support to play their part
References
References
1
Managing & Delivering Performance – Bernard Marr –Butterworth-Heinemann
2
The Execution Premium – Kaplan & Norton – Harvard Business Press
SECTION 1: PLANNING

02342104 Checklist for Successful Strategy Execution

Published: 03.04.2014 |
Last Updated: 03.04.2014
carmichael
carmichael
Tony Roe

TRE Strategies For over 10 years Tony has worked as a consultant, coach, facilitator and trainer providing services to a range of clients in private, semi – state and public sector organisations both in Ireland and overseas. His work has given him a full understanding of the...

My Top Tips
My Top Tips
My Top Tips
1
Recognise that many organisations fail to pay sufficient attention to strategy execution and fall short of their goals and objectives
2
Don’t allow your strategic plan to gather dust, make it part of what you do
3
Share your strategy with employees and stakeholders
4
Periodically test whether you are doing the important things required to deliver your goals and objectives
5
Make sure staff have the right level of support to play their part

After a lot of hours spent developing your strategy and drafting a strategic plan, producing the desired results can often be difficult and for some organisations in the not for profit sector, as in many other sectors, beyond their reach . It is disappointing to have put so much effort into planning and then not get the return expected; it is even enough to make you wonder is it worth doing again.

There are many reasons why organisations don’t successfully execute their strategic plan and it is impossible to address every one of these in this short article. However, there are a number of checks that can be made on completion of the plan to help you determine whether you have provided a solid platform for seeing the plan through to completion. 

Working through the checklist, you will notice a number of items that you may have already addressed in the planning process – well done. There may be other items that you haven’t given very much consideration to and you need to decide whether overlooking these can contribute to preventing your strategic plan from being executed.

So what are the items that, once addressed, will improve the likelihood of success?

1. Your strategy is clear, cohesive and understandable

The well-crafted strategy is useless if it cannot be understood. It is like building a stairs without the bottom steps, it will get you nowhere. Clarity means it can be easily explained, not just to the senior staff but to staff, volunteers and stakeholders.  The question about cohesiveness relates to whether goals, objectives and activities move the organisation along a common path or in different competing directions. Just think about two rowers in a boat rowing in different directions and spinning around – a lot of effort and going nowhere. 

2. Your organisation structure supports delivery of the strategy

For some of the projects and actions identified in your strategic plan it might be obvious who will take responsibility and who will participate on teams, for others it may not be so easy to identify who will be involved. Assuming that ‘somebody will take it on’ is not going to move you closer to a successful outcome and should be avoided. On a larger scale, it can pay dividends to take your organisation chart and overlay the strategic objectives and projects against it, highlighting gaps or a need for an organisation restructure.

3. Budgets have been allocated to strategic initiatives

As with the previous item, strategic initiatives which are not supported by an adequate budget will not be successfully delivered. This can be the elephant in the room and may require a difficult revisit to the  budget and reallocation of scarce finance, but will certainly focus everyone’s minds on whether the strategic plan as it exists is to be delivered.

4. Competencies required to execute the strategy have been identified and will be available

Competencies required to deliver the plan can often be overlooked whereas some forward planning can ensure your organisation is prepared, whether through training, recruitment or contracted expertise.

5. The strategic plan is communicated throughout the organisation 

In many organisations the strategic plan is the preserve of senior staff and doesn’t get communicated to staff members and volunteers. There is a great value to sharing the strategy, providing a context to changes, and tapping into this reserve of knowledge so that decisions and behaviours support the true direction. Communications should be frequent - not a once off process, and questions should be encouraged.

6. Strategy review meetings are held regularly and are not focused on operational issues

Building strategy review meetings into your schedule gives life to your strategic plan, keeping the important to the fore.  Make a conscious decision that time will be set aside to assess progress against strategic objectives without allowing operational issues to set the agenda. Just like the mariner, you need to have some way of knowing if you are starting to go off course.

7. Staff understand the strategy and their role in delivering it

Understanding the role you play in the organisation’s plans can motivate and help make sense of why certain decisions are being made. The organisation will benefit more if staff members can identify their contribution to the overall plan.

8. Individual and team objectives are linked to the strategic plan

Building on the last point, linking individual and team objectives to the strategic plan can be difficult to achieve but can deliver dividends and move strategy execution to another level. 

9. Managers and staff are committed to delivering the strategic plan

Lack of commitment can easily derail attempts to achieve the strategic objectives and needs to be identified early in the process. In some cases the lack of commitment may be due to misunderstanding or confusion around the strategic plan and can be corrected quickly. In cases that commitment is due to disagreement with the strategic direction and actions, which sometimes happen at management level, work needs to be done to turn this around.

10. Strategic plan reviews are conducted to keep the strategy current and on course

Having put a lot of time and effort into developing your strategic plan there should be no need for it to be subject to continual change. However, it will be necessary to step back periodically to check is the strategy still relevant and the best approach to delivering the mission. Don’t allow the dust to collect on your strategic plan, conduct a formal review at least once a year to check if it still appropriate.

11. Strategic initiatives and projects are given high priority

You have defined the key initiatives and projects which are crucial to achieving your goals. If they are not given high priority, it is unlikely that plans will be achieved. To successfully execute your strategy these initiatives and projects must be more than ‘something we will get to after we have done everything else’. If, for whatever the reason, this is the mind-set, it might be time to revisit your strategic plan and conduct a reality check. 

12. Project management capability is strong throughout the organisation and best practices and proven methodologies are consistently used

It is not unusual for organisations to wrestle with many projects and keeping projects on course requires skill, foresight and flexibility. By building up expertise in project management you increase the likelihood that projects will be delivered on time and within budget, removing a lot of the chaos which can arise as deadlines approach.

In addition, there is no efficiency in recreating the wheel every time a new project is launched. It wastes too much time and deflects effort from moving the project on. By incorporating best practices and proven methodologies into projects and activities you will create efficiency and grow the organisation’s knowledge base. 

13. The organisation culture will support strategy execution

The old saying – ‘culture eats strategy’ is a powerful reminder that culture can be ignored at your peril. Where the strategy is relatively stable or changes incrementally, the culture will most likely support your plans. But where the strategic plan requires significant change, hard questions need to be asked at the planning stage as to the organisation’s readiness for the change.

14. Support, coaching and feedback will be provided to staff members so that performance levels are attained

Maintaining ongoing communication and support will increase the likelihood of strong performance and successful strategy execution. Remember that a manager’s role in the organisation is to do everything possible to help employees succeed. 

15. Reporting systems allow easy monitoring of strategy execution and highlight any unwelcome trends

By keeping progress visible, action can be taken to prevent plans from getting derailed. Whatever software you use to collect and report performance, empower employees by making performance information easy to access and timely. 

 

Whilst some of the items outlined above have probably been examined in the strategic planning process, there may be a risk that others are overlooked, resulting in your strategic plan not being set up for success.

 

For ease of use, this list has been summarised in the checklist below. Take a few minutes to examine where you are in terms of preparedness. It should quickly highlight any of the barriers that your are likely to face and help you to close what is commonly known as the execution gap.  

 

 

References
References
References
1
Managing & Delivering Performance – Bernard Marr –Butterworth-Heinemann
2
The Execution Premium – Kaplan & Norton – Harvard Business Press