I’m sure you’ve seen a title like this before.
“Here we go. Another article about the two ‘foolproof ways’ you can improve your entire strategic planning process.”
Just hear me out. This isn’t anything new, and I’m not claiming that. I just know that sometimes you have to hear something a thousand times, hundreds of different ways before it clicks. So, whether this is #999 or only the 20th time you’re hearing the two “foolproof ways” to finally fix your strategy execution problem, you’ll walk away with a new way to look at these possible solutions.
I spend the majority of my days helping my clients implement new ways to effectively execute their strategic plans. And, quite honestly, most of our discussion centers around creating a governance process around their plans.
“Governance” can mean different things to different people. I would boil it all down to, “Now that the plan’s been created how do we track everything effectively and regularly?”
Think about that for a second. How much time are you dedicating to outlining a process that allows for your strategic plan to be executed effectively and regularly?
If you want to execute your plan, you need to hold people accountable to not only getting their work done, but also making regular updates to the items they’re working on. Most business people are well-acquainted with the importance of the first idea because, I mean, who wouldn’t be committed to completing the work they’re assigned? The second idea, centered around regularity, is still less prevalent in the present-day zeitgeist.
If you’re going to be successful in your planning efforts, you need to have access to real-time data. The only way that happens is if you update your plan often.
In my experience, most organizations are making their updates infrequently, and if they try to move to a model that’s more frequent, they encounter pushback. If you experience adaption problems from your team about making monthly strategic planning updates, it’s your job – as their strategic leader – to convince them why that exercise is important.
As a comparison, if you told your sales team you’d only look at their numbers once a quarter, you’d be run out of the company. But somehow the mindset of, “Eh, we’ll check in every once in a while,” is rampant in most strategic planning departments.
What can you do to create an accountability system to receive effective and regular updates?
As the strategy leader, you need to know that your leadership team will commit to reviewing the plan on a monthly basis. I’m not talking about just “looking” at the plan once a month. I’m talking about carving out dedicated time to reviewing the plan as a team.
Once your leadership team has created space to dedicate to in-depth, monthly reviews, you need to clearly communicate to your broader team a) how the plan will be reviewed in the leadership meeting, and b) the rules of engagement around making timely updates.
For example: “You have five business days from the end of the month to make your updates because the leadership team will be reviewing the strategic plan with the team on the sixth day of the month.”
If you then walk into the leadership meeting and a variety of folks didn’t make their updates on time, you need to point the violators out in front of the larger group. If people are making the decision to not make their updates even after clear communication about expectations, there need to be consequences to complete your new accountability system.
Seems harsh, but it works.
Once you take this more public approach to planning with an accountability system, you’ll see a renewed sense of urgency from your leadership team and your team-at-large.
It doesn’t matter how many times you tell your team how important your plan is; it’s only when you begin to demonstrate to employees at all levels the focus you’re placing on your plan that your organization will start experiencing real change.