Now that we’re almost halfway through the year, it’s a good time to look back and note how your company is doing on executing your strategic plan. Have you even looked at your plan or gauged its progress since January? Is your team aware of the company’s strategic goals for the year? Are they engaged in moving the company toward those goals?
Not every business has a strategic plan, but every business should — how else will you get from point A to point B as effectively as possible? At the very core, the main purpose of a strategic plan is to set a vision for the direction your organization is headed five or more years down the road, and then determine the milestones along the way. Your strategic plan should tell a story for what the end of this year looks like for the company, and it should be clear how the goals achieved this year will make progress toward your five-year vision.
But once you have your plan established, it’s time for the hard part — executing.
Three Keys to Successfully Executing Your Strategic Plan
Imagine if everyone on your team was engaged in moving toward your goals for this year. What kind of impact would that have on your plan? How would having the entire company working together and headed in the same direction affect your business? Since having the buy-in and efforts of your entire team is the key to success in any long-term plan, it’s an absolutely essential part of your execution.
With that in mind, here are three major keys to executing on your strategic plan:
- Keep the Plan Simple. We like to use a one-page approach to establishing our plan by utilizing a spreadsheet to outline key aspects of our company strategy for our team, like our values, purpose and vision. We then have sections for the annual goals: what and how we envision things working by the end of the year. Then, for each quarter, we have the goals that move us toward that annual goal and space to track the results. Too much happens during the year to know exactly how or when all the goals will be done; things simply move and change too much to follow a rigid plan set in January. It’s important to have a plan that sets the direction and some key milestones for the year along the way while remaining flexible about the details and timelines that can easily change. A plan that’s simple to update is simpler to execute!
- Communicate. If your strategic plan is a complex 10-page document that details everything, good luck sharing it with others. You’ll never hold their interest, and with so much detail it will be too easy to lose track of the big picture or identify the most important portions that each department should be focused on. Once your plan is in a manageable and easy-to-understand format, share it with the team, communicate the “why” behind your goals and outline the key important aspects. Ask for help (including feedback!) and expect your team to get involved in the process.
- Have an Execution Process. Your plans for the quarter need to be stored in a place where everyone can collaborate around the quarterly goals. We’ve used Trello in the past, but recently switched to Microsoft Planner because it was part of the Office 365 suite. Each goal can easily be viewed, tracked and updated throughout the quarter by everyone who needs to be involved in execution. You should also have a process in place to meet and review your progress (ideally on a weekly basis). Are you making the necessary progress? If not, what are the issues preventing progress and how can the team help to resolve them?
The process you use to execute on your long- and short-term strategic plan needs to provide the team with clarity and focus. Because of their short-term nature and the fact that they are the building blocks of your year-long or five-year plan, your quarterly goals should be the highest priority items to complete, so they’ll need the right level of attention. If you follow the advice above and keep your plan simple, communicate with your team, and have a defined execution process in which you regularly review your progress, you will be well on your way to ensuring that your strategic plan is more than just a boardroom discussion in December or January, and instead, is a living vision for the company, evolving as it reaches the set goals!