According to a McKinsey survey, an overwhelming 74 percent of executives don't have faith that their company's transformative strategies will succeed. Let’s dissect this for a moment. Three out of four companies are on a path where the leaders do not believe that the leadership team, employees, and company as a whole will succeed in their pursuit of key objectives of the business.
Why is this the case? As one who has developed and executed on scores of strategic plans for small, mid, and large corporations, it is my experience that success is not aligned with the comprehensiveness of the plan, but rather it is highly correlated to the discipline with which the plan is developed, communicated, and managed. I encourage anyone leading the development of a strategic plan to consider these three common denominators to position for successful execution:
1) Plans must be a compilation of the team perspective.
No one person has all of the answers. The larger and more complex the business, the greater the need to get input from the experts in each of the disciplines that drive the business. Obtaining input from a variety of disciplines from the business is not only a sound approach for insightful information, but it also contributes to the buy-in from the leadership in these areas as they recognize it is their plan.
2) Plans must have clear ownership and accountability.
To be accountable requires agreed-upon owners of the plans and tactics along with appropriate objectives, metrics, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that evaluate progress. Fully vetted KPIs and metrics are the most effective means of ensuring all participants are aligned on what is being pursued and prioritized. Once completed, proper governance of the plan with the key owners’ is a key element of accountability. A predefined schedule for Strategic Plan Governance meetings is also a must. It is within these “formal” governance updates where progress is not only communicated and evaluated but dynamic changes to original assumptions are addressed, allowing a pivot on plans or actions over time. A reset of metrics/KPIs requires agreement and the formal governance facilitates alignment by all. The formal governance not only messages that individuals and teams are accountable via measures, but transparency and communication are optimized, and ambiguity is minimized.
3) Plans must be easily understood and communicated.
Plans must be comprehensive enough to address the critical aspects of each business yet simple enough to be effectively communicated to all areas of the business. Everyone in the company, from the CEO to Accounts Payable to the Interns need to understand the key goals and strategies (plans) that the company is pursuing and relevant tactics (actions) pertinent to their department and roles. To optimize the messaging, leverage both existing communication channels/forums (i.e., staff meetings, newsletters, etc.) and introduce a direct “Strategic Plan Communication Program.” Town halls, recurring e-mails, and periodic updates from the strategic plan governing body will allow for a unified message. It will also offer content for more defined communications by managers at the division, department, and team level to make the plan relevant for all. The frequency of communication is important. Keep the plan progress front and center. It is the knowledge and alignment that is the foundation for collaboration.
At TAI, our Values-Based Leadership System offers a proven, disciplined, effective construct for companies looking to develop, communicate, and manage a strategic plan with the pillars above. Please reach out to me if you are faced with a transformative business environment that requires executive coaching, team alignment, and/or TAI’s Values-Based Leadership System.