Developing a strategic plan is a significant accomplishment. Most teams never get to the point of creating a step-by-step road map for success. Those that do improve their chances of achieving their goals exponentially.
But plans are meant to be executed. All of your team’s efforts in creating a great strategic plan are wasted if nothing ever gets done. Sadly, a great number of plans are simply filed away and forgotten. To avoid this from happening to you, you need to address three aspects of plan execution.
- FOCUS. I think it was Mike Tyson who said “no plan survives a punch in the face.” Every plan encounters opposition. There will be barriers. There will be setbacks. There will organizational changes that no one anticipated. How do you keep competing priorities from interfering with execution of the plan? How do we overcome the tendency to lose sight of the plan (any plan) in order to address the inevitable fires that pop up?
Things you can do:
* Set clear boundaries. Block out dedicated time on the calendar for working on the steps of your strategic plan. Keep other things from encroaching on your work by making them taboo during the allotted time.
* Communicate. Don’t just assume everyone is focused on the plan. Review progress during your team meetings. Ask for updates and encourage discussion around best practices.
* Create habits. Ramp up the focus to level 11 for a short period of time to help establish new habits critical to the success of your plan. You can back off once performance becomes routine.
- MOTIVATION. Even the most excited supporters of a project will start to lose momentum after a while. Yet motivation is a key part of a successful strategic plan? Plus, it’s linked strongly to things like profitability, customer satisfaction, and employee retention. How do you keep the team energized? How do you ensure each individual gives their part of the plan their best and doesn’t default to just going through the motions?
Things you can do:
* Give up control. People are motivated by autonomy, so where possible, allow them to choose how they complete their part of the plan.
* Give them the tools. Ask team members what resources they need to perform at their best, then work hard to see they get them. Nothing motivates like knowing your leader is behind you.
* Give them some competition. A little friendly contest might be just what the team needs to stay motivated. Spice things up by introducing periodic short-term incentives based on the activities in your plan.
- ACCOUNTABILITY? Yuck. This is probably the most hated word in all of management. Few leaders embrace this aspect of their role. However, top performers actually thrive in an environment of strong accountability. When everyone is expected to play by the same rules, the team is freed up to focus on succeeding. So how do you keep the team – the entire team – do what they are supposed to be doing?
Things you can do:
* Set clear expectations. Let the team know, in no uncertain terms, what acceptable performance looks like. Speak to the behaviors you want to see, not just the results.
* Praise the good. When you witness someone engaging in behavior that moves things in the right direction, let them know about it. People will give you more of what you praise them for.
* Address the bad. When you witness someone engaging in behavior that moves things in the wrong direction, let them know about it. Don’t assume it will stop. Letting things slide is tantamount to praising it.
As the leader, your job is not to just develop a strategic plan, it’s to see that it gets executed as well. Execution is actually the most important part of the plan. A poor plan executed well is worth more than a brilliant plan executed poorly. Make sure to keep your team focused, motivated, and accountable.