|Monitoring Your Progress
Developing an effective strategic plan is
only "half the battle." Getting it implemented is the other, and
generally the tougher, half. And an important part of strategy
implementation is monitoring – taking a periodic look at "how
Monitoring the implementation of your
strategic plan is important for a number of reasons. First, it helps to
assure that your efforts conform to the plan. That you're actually
performing the action steps you intended. That you're "on track."
Second, you've got to be sure the results
you achieve align with your quantified objectives.. That you're
accomplishing what you intended to accomplish. Monitoring helps here
Also, monitoring allows for corrective
action. For making the necessary changes along the way. To "fine tune,"
not only your strategies, but your planning process as well.
And since monitoring is part of a control
process, it encourages improved performance. Knowing they'll be measured
stimulates employees to do a better job.
Finally, and most importantly, monitoring
provides the essential link between the written plan and the day-to-day
operation of your business. It demonstrates to all that "you really are
managing the business according to your plan". Monitoring the plan makes
your entire planning effort a tangible reality rather than a once-a-year
An Early "Warning" System
A significant benefit of the monitoring process is that it
serves as your "early warning system." It gives you the opportunity to
communicate how you're doing. Where the problems and opportunities lie. And what's changed.
For example... In developing a new product, the R&D
department may run into a technical problem – and slip its schedule by six weeks. The
marketing department needs to know about it. So does the production department. Through
such feedback, you improve the implementation of your strategies and reinforce the spirit of
cooperation within your organization.
Getting "Back on Track"
But let's be realistic. You will run into
implementation problems. Everyone does. Some of your tactics may prove
ineffective. Or your strategies won't work as you intended. Or you’ll
miss accomplishing an objective. What then? What corrective actions can
You can take one of four corrective
actions. First, you can change your schedule – slip your due date.
Second, you can change the tactics you're performing to implement your
strategy. Third, you can change your strategy. Finally, as a last resort,
you can compromise your objective. Each of these corrective actions is
applicable under specific circumstances. Let's see....
You'd slip your schedule if you felt your fundamental strategy
were still sound. And you felt the tactics you were using to implement the strategy were
also sound. But you simply needed more time. Perhaps you were earlier overly
optimistic in deciding on your due date. Or some other activity is temporarily competing
for a critical resource. Or you decided to wait for some important piece of information –
a market survey; a competitive announcement; the opinion of a newly hired manager. All are
perfectly valid reasons for allowing your schedule to slip.
But be careful. You can't always slip your
schedule. Because the world around continues to move forward.
Competition introduces new products and services. Technology continues
to advance. And the needs of your customers change as well. For every
strategy there's a "strategic window." A period of time during which
that strategy will work. But if you slip your schedule too far – if you
miss that strategic window – your strategy simply won't work. Please be
aware of your strategic window.
Some years ago, I worked with a
manufacturer of scientific instrumentation. The company was then
developing a new product which they intended to launch at the up-coming
annual trade show. Were they to fail to meet their development schedule,
they’d miss the launch at the trade show – an important marketing event.
Their strategic window would be closed. Fortunately, and thanks to their
commitment and hard work, they made their schedule and successfully
launched their new product at the trade show.
If slipping your schedule isn't the
solution to correct an implementation problem, how about changing your
tactics? You'd do that, of course, if you believed your fundamental
strategy were sound, but your tactics to accomplish that strategy were
faulty. Or the people assigned to accomplish those tactics were the
wrong people. Perhaps your marketing department really doesn't have the
time to conduct the survey they committed to. Or the production
department really doesn't have the expertise to automate the line. In
either case, you might continue with your strategy but modify your
tactics – by making use of manpower or expertise from outside the
organization, for example.
Changing the Strategy
Next, you might consider changing your
fundamental strategy. You'd do so if your problems weren't with your
schedule or your specific tactics. But for one reason or another, your
strategy was simply wrong. Either you mistakenly developed the
wrong strategy. Or your external environment has changed – customers'
needs, competitive offerings, legislative factors, the economy, etc. Or
internally, your organization has changed. Perhaps through the
acquisition of a new asset. Or a change in availability of a critical
resource. Valid reasons to change your strategy.
Here's an important distinction between
modifying tactics and modifying strategy – when we change our tactics,
we do so because we've been doing the right thing wrong. When we
change our strategy, we do so because we've been doing the wrong
thing. Big difference.
Changing an Objective
Last choice – you'd compromise your
objective. Here, you'd agree to "accomplish less." Naturally, such a
decision – that of compromising your objective – is a last resort.
Deciding how much variation should
trigger corrective action – and specifically what that corrective
action should be – there's where managerial judgment counts most. Where
you get to exercise the "art" of strategy implementation.