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How to Implement Strategy

Most organisations will have a strategic plan. Even if it is not a formal document, the organisation will have created a set of strategies over time, perhaps in the development of business plans, or to develop a new initiative, open a new branch or market, or even to develop internal skills and capacities.

However many of these strategies are simply not carried out to fruition. Strategic Plans, business plans or sets of well thought out strategies sit on the shelf with limited or minimal implementation. Often, this is because organisations don’t work on implementing strategies day to day. Organisations may be good at what they do on a day to day basis, such as buying, producing and selling, but these processes are conducted by functional areas who have functional responsibility for those areas. Implementation of strategies on the other hand are often cross-functional, interrupt existing responsibilities and processes, and inadequately resourced.

So, having spent scarce time and energy creating well thought out and well crafted strategies, what can you do to ensure that you are able to execute strategy effectively?

The successful implementation of strategy needs some key elements that fall into two areas, structuring the organisation for strategy implementation and ensuring employee engagement. Specifically the key elements are:-

1. Ensure senior management understand and sign off on the strategy. They must understand and have set aside the resource required and the time needed to follow the implementation steps. They must also hold themselves ultimately accountable for the implementation of the strategy.

2. An implementation Action Plan must be prepared, detailing steps to be taken, resources per step, deadlines, accountabilities and key performance indicators of each major milestone. As required above, this Action Plan must be understood and endorsed by the senior management.

3. Someone responsible needs to be assigned to implement the strategy. This person must have the authority to act across functions and be given full responsibility and accountability for the full implementation of the strategy, reporting to senior management directly.

4. If necessary the responsible person must have a cross-functional team, representing all the areas affected, and reporting to the responsible person on the issue of implementation.

5. Employees generally need to be told about the strategy and how it will be implemented. Those affected must also understand their role in the implementation and its after-effects, and how it will affect them. All will need to understand what outcomes are intended to be achieved, particularly in regard to the impact on the customer.

6. Employees who will be impacted must be given the opportunity to be involved from the design phase. If they help to work out the best way to implement the strategy, in fact help to design the implementation Action Plan, they will more easily commit to the success of the implementation.

If you pay attention to the organisational and human aspects of implementing strategy you will have a far better chance of success.

Have you implemented strategy? What have you found to be the keys to successful implementation?

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