For many teams, developing a strategic plan can be a massive achievement. However, the creation of the plan is simply the first step of the process. After you plan the work, you actually have to work the plan—and this is where many plans simply fall apart. Perhaps that’s why Thomas Edison said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”
Unless you intentionally support your plan with the right structural elements, you’ll struggle to keep your plan on track. You’ll fail to meet your objectives.
The Relationship Between Strategy and Structure
Up to 90% of companies fail to execute their strategic plans, according to authors David Norton and Robert Kaplan.
There are many reasons why implementation of strategic plans can go awry—unforeseen developments outside of the company’s control, poor internal communication, not having the right people involved, no accountability or follow through, etc.
Generally speaking, though, most failures in executing a strategic plan come back to one simple fact: the support structures simply weren’t there to support the plan.
So, one of the first questions to ask upon completing the plan is, “Do we have the right people, processes, and systems to support the plan?” Your strategy is only as good as the structures you put in place to help execute it. Here are five core elements every company needs for effective strategic plan implementation.
5 Structural Elements Needed to Implement Strategy
1. A People Strategy
The most effective companies have the right people in the right roles to execute the strategic plan. The most effective way I have found to organize people into the right roles comes from EOS®: create an Accountability Chart. Doing so will allow everyone in the organization to clearly understand who is responsible for what.
To build an effective accountability chart, start by identifying the major functions your company needs. Most of the companies have three core functions:
- Sales and Marketing
- Operations (Service Delivery)
- Finance and Administration.
Use these three as the starting point for identifying the core functions of your organization. From there, identify the role for which each core function is responsible. All of this is done by primarily deciding what functions the company needs. At this early stage, remove the names of people from this process.
The rule of thumb is this: Create the structure that is best for the company. Conversely, DO NOT organize a structure around a particular individual.
To find more detail on creating an Accountability Chart, read this article by Sergiu Simmel. It provides a step-by-step approach on how to build an effective Accountability Chart for your organization.
2. A Meeting Pulse
Effective meetings are a required support structure element to help implement the strategic plan. Notice I said “effective” meetings. There are two aspects to effective meetings: cadence and quality.
Cadence has to do with the frequency of meeting—in other words, how often we should have them. I believe that Pat Lencioni’s “Death by Meeting” is the best framework for determining how often a company should meet.
Quality has to do with the effectiveness of each meeting. Ineffective meetings require significant time, presence, and commitment, but they accomplish very little. Bad meetings are depressing, discouraging, and consistently erode a team’s enthusiasm. It’s actually better not to meet at all than to consistently conduct ineffective meetings.
- Start on time
- End on time
- Have an agenda
- Stay on track
- End with to-do’s or commitments
Implementing a defined meeting structure will help ensure successful implementation of the strategic plan.
3. A Company Scorecard
As the strategic plan gets executed, how will you know what kind of progress you’re making? Are you on track to achieve your goals? How do you know if what you’re doing is working?
This is where a company scorecard comes in. A company scorecard is like the scoreboard at a ball game. A quick glance will give you a pulse on how the game is going. In the same way, a company scorecard will give you a pulse on how the company is doing. It can help measure progress and performance as laid out in the strategic plan. The scorecard will provide key measurables that you can evaluate weekly, monthly, and/or quarterly. Doing so will provide insight into where to turn attention should things start to go awry.
4. A Marketing Strategy
Effective marketing will be necessary for your plan’s success. A marketing strategy defines the target market (your audience), and the unique approach taken to reach them. Whether your company has a dedicated marketing function or not, take the time to identify and define your ideal customers. This will help keep the organization all focused on the same target.
Determine what sort of services your company provides that your customers can’t find anywhere else. Know what makes your business unique. Define how you’ll frame the message. Ensure that you’re consistently delivering on those promises.
Make sure everyone on your team knows all of the above. Once this strategy is in place, develop a tactical plan for implementing it.
5. Defined Core Processes
Every business relies on a handful of core processes to get their work done and deliver their product or services. Having those core processes identified and defined creates efficiency. Examples of core processes are:
- Hiring process
- Purchasing process
- Lead-to-sale process
- Concept-to-design process
Although it takes time, the steps to creating these core processes are pretty straightforward. First, identify the processes (for example, make a list of them). Then, define each one. I find this is best done via a process map. Next, communicate the process to the team. Lastly, enforce it. Once the process is implemented, if anyone goes outside the process, give them the proverbial “slap on the hand.”
Defined core processes help to streamline the business and execute your strategic plan more effectively. Remember, if the strategic plan is sound, but the structure is weak, the plan is doomed to fail. You cannot execute a strategic plan without the right structure. It’s as simple as that.