Strategy Implementation:
Six Supporting Factors
By Bill Birnbaum, CMC
 
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Organizations successful at strategy implementation effectively manage
six key supporting factors:

     1.  Action Planning
     2.  Organization Structure
     3.  Human Resources
     4.  The Annual Business Plan
     5.  Monitoring and Control
     6.  Linkage.

Action Planning

First, organizations successful at implementing strategy develop detailed action plans... chronological lists of action steps (tactics) which add the necessary detail to their strategies. And assign responsibility to a specific individual for accomplishing each of those action steps. Also, they set a due date and estimate the resources required to accomplish each of their action steps. Thus they translate their broad strategy statement into a number of specific work assignments.

Organizational Structure

Next, those successful at implementing strategy give thought to their organizational structure. They ask if their intended strategy fits their current structure. And they ask a deeper question as well... "Is the organization's current structure appropriate to the intended strategy?"

We're reminded here of a client we worked with some years ago. The company was experiencing problems implementing its strategy calling for the development of two new products.

The reason the firm had been unable to develop those products was simple... they had never organized to do so. Lacking the necessary commitment for new product development, management didn't establish an R&D group. Rather, it assigned its manufacturing engineering group the job of new product development... and hired two junior engineers for the task. Since the primary function of the manufacturing engineering group was to keep the factory humming, those engineers kept getting pulled off their "new product" projects and into the role of the manufacturing support. Result no new products.

Human Resource Factors

Organizations successful at strategy implementation consider the human resource factor in making strategies happen. Further, they realize that the human resource issue is really a two part story. First, consideration of human resources requires that management think about the organization's communication needs. That they articulate the strategies so that those charged with developing the corresponding action steps (tactics) fully understand the strategy they're to implement.

Second, managers successful at implementation are aware of the effects each new strategy will have on their human resource needs. They ask themselves the questions... "How much change does this strategy call for?" And, "How quickly must we provide for that change?" And, "What are the human resource implications of our answers to those two questions?"

In answering these questions, they'll decide whether to allow time for employees to grow through experience, to introduce training, or to hire new employees.

The Annual Business Plan

Organizations successful at implementation are aware of their need to fund their intended strategies. And they begin to think about that necessary financial commitment early in the planning process. First, they "ballpark" the financial requirements when they first develop their strategy. Later when developing their action plans, they "firm up" that commitment. As a client of ours explains, they "dollarize" their strategy. That way, they link their strategic plan to their annual business plan (and their budget). And they eliminate the "surprises" they might otherwise receive at budgeting time.

Monitoring & Control

Monitoring and controlling the plan includes a periodic look to see if you're on course. It also includes consideration of options to get a strategy once derailed back on track. Those options (listed in order of increasing seriousness) include changing the schedule, changing the action steps (tactics), changing the strategy or (as a last resort) changing the objective. (For more on this point, see "Monitoring Implementation of Your Strategic Plan.")

Linkage - The Foundation for Everything Else

Many organizations successfully establish the above five supporting  factors. They develop action plans, consider organizational structure, take a close look at their human resource needs, fund their strategies through their annual business plan, and develop a plan to monitor and control their strategies and tactics. And yet they still fail to successfully implement those strategies and tactics. The reason, most often, is they lack linkage. Linkage is simply the tying together of all the activities of the organization...to make sure that all of the organizational resources are "rowing in the same direction."

It isn't enough to manage one, two or a few strategy supporting factors. To successfully implement your strategies, you've go to manage them all. And make sure you link them together.

Strategies require "linkage" both vertically and horizontally. Vertical linkages establish coordination and support between corporate, divisional and departmental plans. For example, a divisional strategy calling for development of a new product should be driven by a corporate objective calling for growth, perhaps - and on a knowledge of available resources - capital resources available from corporate as well as human and technological resources in the R&D department.

Linkages which are horizontal - across departments, across regional offices, across manufacturing plants or divisions require coordination and cooperation to get the organizational units "all playing in harmony." For example, a strategy calling for introduction of a new product requires the combined efforts of and thus coordination and cooperation among the R&D, the marketing, and the manufacturing departments. For more on the subject of linkage, please see Linkage: The Foundation for Everything Else.

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