Organizations A & B had similar processes for developing strategic plans. They both had solid documents with a good set of performance measures. Three years later, organization A is LIVE and well. They are using their plan to allocate resources, guide decision making and drive performance. Organization B is dead in the water. So what’s the difference?
Three things to ensure your organization “Goes Live”
1. Take the time
Planning vs. “real” implementation: Many organizations put all their effort into creating the strategic plan and then struggle when the time comes time for implementation. Often they will make an all-out effort in the first six to nine months after the plan is completed and then organizational exhaustion or inertia take over. Few organizations realize they are in for a marathon rather than a sprint to the finish. Developing and deploying change management strategies take time and are crucial for successfully moving the plan from “extra” work to the “way” we work.
Performance measures & targets: Just because a measure and target have been identified, the data will not magically appear. Take time to create the metrics and reporting protocols to provide valid reliable information for organizational decision making. In addition, if you do not have baseline data or a good solid industry standard or benchmark, targets cannot be set.
Budget: Avoid the trap of rushing into aligning the strategic plan to resource allocation. Although this is one of the key reasons for developing a strategic plan, it can cause problems if done prematurely.
Determine which systems, structures, processes and policies need to be developed or changed prior to budgetary decisions being proposed. Taking the time required to correctly align the plan with the budget process will pay off in the long run and help the organization avoid unintended consequences.
2. Provide oversight
Who is directing and coordinating the effort?
What are the specific tasks required?
Are there communication and marketing plans?
Are human and financial resources available to make it happen?
Who will be held accountable?
An Implementation Team (IT) should be formed to oversee and champion the roll out of the strategic plan. A charter would clarify the roles and responsibilities of team members as well as provide governance. The Implementation Team members must have the authority to allocate resources, make decision and remove barriers. The IT includes the plan owner, goal champions, and support staff to track, monitor, communicate and market the plan. The IT also has the authority to charter quick forming, quick dissolving teams (ad hoc) to focus on specific work and make the initiatives happen. The structure of the IT as well as the use of ad hoc teams breaks down organizational silos. With a growing emphasis on partnerships and collaboration, formalizing this effort goes a long way toward ensuring solutions are implemented across the enterprise and desired results are achieved.
3. Manage the change
Develop a roadmap for managing change: This is a useful tool to help organizational leaders understand where they are in process and how to move through the stages of plan implementation. The roadmap presents levels of organizational maturity and defines the timeframes for key implementation activities. At a minimum, your roadmap should address the first 3 years after plan development and formal adoption.
There are five key categories for consideration. They are:
1. Systems, Structures and Processes. Development of the underlying systems, structures and processes should be deliberate and will define how to utilize teams and technology for implementation.
2. Accountability for Performance. Organizational and individual accountability systems move along a continuum. Over time, accountability is demonstrated by increased transparency improvement in effectiveness and efficiency and return on investment from budgetary realignments and adjustments.
3. Managing Change.
All plans must be updated and adapted over time as lessons are learned. As plans become linked first to leadership’s performance and eventually individual’s performance, the organization realign’s their reward and recognition systems to support the new “real” work.
4. Increase Organizational Awareness and Capacity.
Branding and marketing of the plan, creating awareness with new stakeholders and partners, and developing the capacity of employees are important parts of the implementation process.
5. Aligning with the Budget.
The plan has to align with the budget. The process of budget alignment begins with departmental and operational plans and eventually develops into the core of the budget.
The tasks associated with these five categories can be charted as steps to guide implementation. Charting the process using solid timelines will serve as a communication tool and keep the organization on track. The tasks and timeline should be based on each individual organization’s resources and capacity. The chart below is an example using numbers 2 and 4 from the categories listed above:
Creating your organization’s roadmap will provide a clear sense of direction and understanding of what it takes to implement a strategic plan. Focusing on the five categories provides a useful framework and demonstrates early on that this plan is not destined for the shelf.
Strategic planning is an important investment for any organization. Great plans that never get implemented are remembered as BAD experiences. The implementation process requires the same careful thought and organizational focus as the development of the strategic plan itself. Organizations that pay attention to the details, make the time and resource commitment, provide the right level of oversight and manage the change are the ones that see their plans become reality.