Strategies fail for many reasons. One of the main ones is those tasked with strategy implementation, and specifically, the application of strategically essential initiatives, get tied up with the day to day running of the business.

Project implementation in strategic management is proven to be an area where, for most businesses, there’s significant room for improvement. One of our previous posts, The Relationships Between Strategy Development and Strategy Implementation, goes into this in more detail.

But if strategically important initiatives get overlooked in favour of operational projects your business will stagnate, or worse, it won’t survive. In simple terms, leaders who don’t spend time working on their companies preferring instead to work in them are not doing anyone any favours.

Commonly, strategic plans and their associated initiatives become removed from the growth and prosperity of the organisations they aim to help. They become disconnected, seen as something ethereal. It’s almost as if those who should be putting significant effort into growing the business into the future prefer to do things that generate invoices today. Sound familiar?

It could be that the sheer volume of work the strategic planning process generates overwhelms those tasked with its delivery. It’s understandable, and if like me you’re a procrastinator there’s solace in doing something billable.

Sweat the small stuffSweat the small stuff

Something that exacerbates the situation is the lack of consideration given to strategy implementation during the strategic planning process. Typically even the grandest of plans are achieved through the execution of lots of small tasks. Advocates of agile methodologies, like us, swear by this approach. Thinking about that during the planning process is going to be helpful and keep things real.

It’s no wonder strategy documents all too often sit on bookshelves and in drawers. Without the right tools, implementing strategies is hard, and there’s always a chance of failure.

So how should busy executives avoid the trap of the day to day running of their businesses impeding the implementation of their carefully crafted strategic plan? Well, it’s not simple but following these rules can help.

Make sure you and your team are committed to the strategic plan. By this, I mean 100% buy-in and not just being high on the planning session.

Communicate the plan across the organisation and not just in the board room. Strategic plans rely on company-wide adoption. Sure, the program will mean different things to different people, but everyone should have an appreciation of the part they’re playing.

Make delivering the plan part of your day, every day, and arm yourself with a toolkit that’s going to make it easier.

Sweat the small stuff. By that I mean monitor the projects that are key to the delivery of your strategy, and again, this becomes easier if you’ve got the right tools at your fingertips.

Monitor critical KPI's. With the right dashboard, this isn’t hard, and it’s going to keep you motivated, especially as you see those time series charts head in the right direction. Most credible strategy implementation tools will make monitoring KPI's easy.

Monitor the external environment in which you’re operating to make sure you’re making progress. Those internal KPI's might show sales of a product have increased 20%, good job, but what if there’s a market trend that suggests you should have grown them 30%? Not so good a job.

Conversely, if sales are decreasing is that internal failings or external factors that are causing it? You’ll only know if you’re making use of the excellent, and free, external data sets that are available to you.

So, in short, make your strategy implementation part of your day, communicate with the people delivering it, monitor progress and react to what you see, be prepared to pivot when it’s obvious something isn’t working and, most important of all, use a strategy tool that takes away some of the pain.

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