Implementation is No Accident
Too often, managers ask the
question of "how to implement" far too late. They start thinking about
implementation only after they've develop their strategies. That's a
mistake. They should take implementation steps both before and during
strategy development as well. Think about this...
Imagine that you're walking
up a hill. Not just for the fun of it. And not for the exercise. But
because you'd like to develop your strategic plan while standing on top
of the hill. Then, after you're all finished developing your plan,
you'll walk down the other side of the hill.
Walking up the hill
corresponds to your "getting ready" to develop your plan. Standing on
top of the hill corresponds to the time you're actually developing your
plan. And walking down the hill corresponds to the time following your
development of the plan.
There are specific
implementation steps we should consider during each of these times:
walking up, standing on top, and walking down. Let's look at each of
these three sets of implementation steps separately...
Well before your strategy sessions,
opportunities to "lay the groundwork" for implementation of your resultant
strategies. The first step perhaps the most important step is to demonstrate
managerial commitment. Commitment to the planning process and to the resultant strategies
within the plan. You'll need to demonstrate commitment, not just by word, but by
deed as well. By giving your own time to the planning process. And by demonstrating
readiness to allocate the necessary resources to the resultant strategies.
you must select the "right"
planning team members. They'll come from the ranks of top management probably
functional managers. This brings to your strategy sessions the expertise necessary to
develop the plan. Also, it makes possible the necessary immediate strategic decisions. And it involves the key executives in development of the plan. Thus
encouraging their commitment to the implementation they'll later direct.
You must gather the "right"
information before developing your strategies. Not just the obvious the
financial reporting information. But also information about your customers
and the benefits they seek in purchasing your products and services. Why
they buy. Why they don't. And information about your competition. Their
strengths. Their weaknesses. And how their offering compares to yours.
Successful strategies follow from your management team's full appreciation
enterprise and its relationship to its marketplace. You need the "right"
information to establish and up-date that team-wide awareness.
Also before planning,
you should solicit input
from your employees. To get them involved in the planning process. To "flush up"
issues they feel are important.
This participation builds necessary
commitment. Employees who havie the opportunity to participate in
developing their company's strategic
plan feel "a part" of that plan. They're committed to the success of the plan
and to the successful implementation of the strategies within that plan.
At his company's strategic planning retreat,
the Vice- President of Marketing for one of our client companies remarked, "The
managers in our marketing department are eager to see this plan. They've provided much of
the initial input for this session, so they're looking forward to implementing the
During your strategic planning sessions,
have additional opportunities to encourage successful implementation of your resultant
strategies. First, you can encourage participation from all members of
your planning team.
You can work toward rich, lively discussions on all issues. Solicit input from the more
hesitant, and, if necessary, temper the more domineering individuals. To do so,
you must be
sure the facilitator of your sessions has not only expertise in the planning process, but
also, skill in handling the planning team's interpersonal dynamics.
You can also encourage
implementation through focusing. Focus on the most important things. On
what it takes to win. On your key success factors. On those few activities
that will make you successful. Focusing on doing these "right things
right" will not only concentrate resources, but will concentrate resources
on those factors which are most important.
You can encourage
implementation by developing objectives measurable by your current
reporting system. You'll be busy enough implementing your plan; you
don't want to pioneer a new reporting system at the same time. For
example, all companies report sales volume; but few report market share.
For good reason. It's difficult to get agreement on the total market
size used in calculating market share. And even if you could agree on
total market size, data on market size is never available right now.
This lack of timely information means you can't use a market share
objective to manage your business day-to-day. For these reasons, market
share is most often viewed as an approximate, rather than an exact
measurement. It makes for a poor objective.
But suppose market share is important to
organization, as it is to many. If so,
you can write your objective in terms of sales
volume. Then you can estimate total market size, and put that estimate in
your list of
"planning assumptions." Finally, in an appendix to your plan,
you can divide your
sales objective by your estimated market size to arrive at your intended market share. That
way, you'll have an objective
(sales volume), whose measurement is familiar to, and accepted
by, those who must accomplish it. And just as important, it's a measurement that's
available right now. So you can use it as a day-to-day tool in managing
Also while planning, you can encourage
successful implementation of your strategies through developing a "balanced" list
of objectives. By having one or more objectives dealing with human resource issues
working conditions; career development; benefit programs. More of
care about human resources than about sales volume and profit. Having a human resource
objective, when those employees whose help you'll need in implementing
ask "What's in it for me?", you'll have an answer.
You should also develop strategies built on
company's strengths. If you're strong in marketing, you'll best implement a strategy calling
for promoting your way to success. If you're good at product development,
you'd best invent
your way to growth. And you shouldn't select a strategy just because it's
"popular" or because "it worked" for another firm. It's got to work
for you. It must be built on your own company's strengths.
Also, you'll have to consider available
resources. That means you need to estimate the resources required to implement each strategy.
You must be careful about over-committing those resources particularly people. There's a
fine line between challenge, which encourages implementation; and over-commitment, which
discourages implementation. Be careful.
Finally, while developing your strategies,
should include a "built-in monitoring system." Have a key
responsibility for implementing each strategy. That manager's name, along with a due
date for completion, then becomes a part of the strategy statement. Including a name and a
due date aids in monitoring the strategy's implementation and in assuring that a key
manager "owns" each strategy.
Following development of
your strategies, you have additional opportunities to encourage
implementation. First, you can communicate the plan to the folks who
will help with its implementation. In fact, one of the two questions we
ask of client-company planning teams at the conclusion of their strategy
sessions is, "Now that we've developed the strategic plan, how do you
feel you should communicate it to your employees, and to which of your
employees do you think you should communicate it?"
And there's no singular
"right answer" to the question of communication. The point is, since
you'll need your employees' help in implementing your strategies, you'd
better tell them what you're trying to accomplish. Consider the
We worked with a mid-sized
manufacturing client in Los Angeles. We had just completed the
organization's five-year strategic plan, and were about to begin work on
its one-year operational plan. The company's executive planning team
decided to ask their supervisory-level managers for input regarding
objectives for that one-year plan.
Asking for that input was
very important for the company at that time. Because in August of that
year, the firm was going to move to a new facility. Close down the
factory for an entire month, pick up all the machinery, load it on
trucks, drive it over to the new factory, plop it down, wire it up, and
go back to work. A good chunk of the month's production would be lost in
This was no small issue. No
small issue for production; no small issue for sales; no small issue for
customer service. The company's executives were concerned about the
objectives they could realistically set for that first year the year
of the move. Following development of the five-year strategic plan and
prior to development of the one-year operational plan, we made a
presentation to the company's supervisory-level managers. We introduced
the strategic plan, and asked for input regarding the one-year plan and
We got back the kinds of
answers we went looking for. We got back information which included the
opinions of supervisory-level managers regarding the objectives they
were comfortable biting off that first year. But we got one more thing.
One very important thing. Something we didn't go looking for. And that
was motivation. The supervisory-level managers said things like "We're
working for a professional organization we're planning." It seemed
that the planning process spread motivation throughout the company.
But it wasn't the planning
process, per se, that encouraged motivation. The supervisory-level
managers weren't "turned on" to their company simply because their
executives were planning. Rather they were turned on because their
executives asked them "what do you think?" Their executives demonstrated
they cared about their supervisors' opinion. Communication leads to
motivation and, in turn, to successful implementation.
You can also encourage
implementation through linking your strategic plan to your operational
plan. You can ask each manager responsible for a specific strategy to
take that strategy back to his or her department. And there, ask those
employees who will implement the strategy to develop tactics or "action
steps." Ask them to assign responsibility for each tactic; to set due
dates; to project required resources.
But what about strategies
which require the collective efforts of two or more departments to
implement? Those are a bit more complex. Here, each department must
still develop its own list of action steps. But each department must
also consider the action steps of the other departments on which its own
performance is dependent. For example, a strategy calling for
development of a new product would involve efforts (action steps) by the
R&D, marketing and production departments the activities of each
clearly dependent on those of the other two. To implement such
strategies, management must encourage inter- department communication,
understanding and cooperation.
To successfully implement
your strategy, monitoring is an absolute necessity. Your department
managers must monitor their tactical plans. And your executive planning
team must monitor the strategic plan. That way, if the strategy isn't
happening, you can consider your options changing the strategy,
changing its implementation, or changing its due date.
Finally, you should watch
for opportunities to "fine tune" your planning process. This will help
with implementation of your strategies in later years. You might, for
example, at the third quarterly review of our strategic plan, take a
little extra time to discuss the planning process. To look back on your
strategy development sessions. To ask, "what went well?" And "what
didn't?" And "what changes might we suggest for next time around?"
Changes to improve the plan. To improve its implementation. To "fine
tune" your planning process so it better fits your company's specific