Be aware that ‘to commit to plan, is to commit to change.’
Strategic planning and implementation is at the heart of how change of any kind happens within your firm. Successful implementation requires the full commitment from partners, senior management and the entire firm, whether the plan is occurring in a department or throughout the firm.
The elements of a strategic plan are basic. They are: vision, mission, long-range goals, short-term objectives, task assignments, action items and follow-up plans.
A Fortune magazine study found that 70% of CEOs who failed to implement a strategic plan did so not because of bad strategy, but because of bad execution and lack of linkage.
Linkage is the foundation, according to management consultant and author Bill Birnbaum. Many firms successfully establish the plan, but fail to implement the strategies.
Linkage is like conducting an orchestra. You will need to integrate the talents of a number of musicians. While the contribution of each musician is unique, all work in harmony toward one common objective – a successful performance. Linkage is simply tying together the activities of the firm to make sure all the firm’s resources are “rowing in the same direction,” Birnbaum says.
Implementation of strategies requires linkage in two dimensions, according to Birnbaum: vertical and horizontal. Vertical linkage ties the firm from top to bottom, from corporate to division to department. Horizontal linkage ties the activities of individual departments, of regional offices, etc., to establish coordination and cooperation so the collective efforts work toward successful implementation.
An excellent way to encourage linkage is to establish “action planning” teams that cross all departments. That way, people from one department not only appreciate the activities being performed by those in others, but they better understand the “big picture” – the strategy in its entirety – and better understand how their efforts work toward successful implementation.
Leaders can do the following to help create a successful implementation process.
Establish a clear vision.
Ensure you have full and active partner and staff support.
Be transparent and honest about the outcome(s) desired. Commitment, credibility and communication are key.
Make sure all staff knows why the firm is changing and how it affects the firm and the firm’s vision and mission.
Accept that planning and implementation is more than an event, it’s a process.
Encourage ongoing, detailed and effective communication.
Paint a realistic picture of where the firm will end up and the anticipated outcomes.
Recognize that your plan may need changes and updates along the way.
Appoint honest, trustworthy executive champions throughout the firm who “own” the implementation process.
Ensure thorough planning and competitive analysis, which are imperative during the implementation process.