Anthony Taylor here, I'm the Managing Partner at SME Strategy. We facilitate strategic planning sessions and help teams implement their strategic plans. And today, I wanted to make a short video about best practices for implementing your strategy in 2022.
So if you've created your strategic plan, if you've gone through the process of aligning your team, getting everybody bought in and getting everybody clear on where you want to go, here are some tips that you can use to implement your strategy more effectively, keep the focus on your strategic plan and make sure that you make the progress that you want as you move forward. So let's get into it.
You Need Strong Communication
So number one thing to consider as you're implementing your strategic plan this year is think about communication. Okay, so fundamentally as a pillar of successful strategy implementation, think about 'How are we going to communicate the strategic plan so that everybody knows what's going on, and how they can contribute?' Watch: Communication Planning in 5 Slides.
So one of the things you got to think about is cascading the plan, getting the plan from where you are to your management team, to your second level managers, to your frontline employees, and so on. So making sure that everybody in the organization knows where you're going, and what you need to do to get there. Another important consideration as you're moving your strategic plan forward, especially at the leadership team level, is making sure that information flows across functions. A lot of times we see organizations set up in silos or functional silos, which makes a lot of sense. But for your plan to be successful, important information needs to go across those boundaries, because it's almost certain that your plan won't be implemented successfully if you don't have the information moving across.
Think of it this way, different members of your leadership team have pieces to the puzzle of the plan. And if you don't have the right structures, you won't be able to get the pieces in the right place when you need them. So make sure that you've set up your team, set up your organization, for information to flow across easily. And so a great way to do that is to set up a meeting cadence for continuity. To create a meeting cadence, a regular rhythm or drumbeat for strategy meetings, and for meetings to communicate important pieces of the strategic plan so that everybody knows what's going on. That might be meetings within each strategic pillar or strategic priority. It might be an organization wide, it might be a company wide, and it might be all of those. But if you don't have a drumbeat, then it's going to be ups and downs for strategy. So create a cadence, create a rhythm, and you're going to have more success as you implement your plan moving forward in 2022.
Fostering Accountability with the Plan
Number two thing to consider as you move your plan forward is 'How are you setting up and fostering accountability'? So we know that in the past couple years, it's been very tumultuous with uncertainty, raining, and really just a lot of stuff going on. So how can you foster that accountability? What systems and processes can you put in place to support making sure that the important things get done. Your drumbeat is going to help. Regular communication with your leadership team, regular meetings, one-on-ones is all fundamentally communication. But it's less communication around transferring information - more so communication around keeping people accountable and making sure that the important stuff gets done.
Another critical component for successful strategy implementation is accountability. So how are you going to foster or track progress of your strategic plan? So it's one thing to say, hey, we have these goals, it's another to be able to make sure that you're making the progress. So whether you're using a software, whether you're using an Excel spreadsheet, whether you're using a Gantt chart, or some project management software, make sure that you're keeping people accountable. Not only to the actions that need to be done, but the results that are needing to be accomplished. So if you're using OKRs as a framework, it's a great way to be able to track your progress.
Another thing I want you to consider as you're thinking about accountability is what do you do when things don't go as planned? And I can almost guarantee you, it's not going to go as planned. And so creating a system to deal with failures in the system, or dealing with challenges as it relates to strategy implementation is critical, because you're almost certainly going to run into it. So if you have a plan on how you're going to deal with it on the front end, it'll have you be more prepared and have your team feel safer as they move forward. If you know that they're going to fail at some level, not a moral failure, but a failure in terms of execution or implementation or whatever. Say, great, How do we deal with this? How do we adjust? And how do we move forward to build that in place, so your team knows that it's okay to fail as part of your strategic plan? Because it's kind of a prerequisite for success. So what are you going to do to move forward when things don't go as planned?
Keeping Strategy a Priority
Another thing I want you to consider in 2022, as you move forward with your strategy implementation, is how you're going to keep your strategy a priority. So you know, people have the tyranny of the urgent, you know, things start piling up, you have a lot of important things to do. And then we usually find that, you know, three, four or five months after the initial strategic planning off site, they've got a lot of things on their list. And if you don't have the right systems, you forget about your strategic priority. So how are you going to protect that strategic time? Having that meeting cadence, making that a top priority, but if you don't make time, and if you don't protect the time for your strategy is going to get eaten up by urgent things that go on. So what can you do as a team to make sure that that strategic work is really priority number one? As a CEO, signaling that those meetings are important as in you don't miss them, you don't move them, really highlights to everybody and signals to everybody that the strategic work that you're doing is a priority.
One way to think about it is the balance between strategic and operational. The operational is the day to day working in the business, the strategic is the big picture working on the business Most senior managers should be spending the majority of their time in the strategic. But you know, we see a lot of CEOs that are still operational CEOs - senior managers are going to bring the most value to their organizations when they're working on the strategic work. And if you are a senior leader, and you're saying hey, Where is my team focused? You can ask them how much of your time is spent on operational, working in the business, how much of your time is working on the business, moving us forward, and moving us to where we want to go. Make sure you're spending a good amount of time, you know, maybe 30% 20%, on the strategic - not that much, but enough that you are moving those important initiatives forward. Another thing to think about for keeping strategy as a priority is getting other people involved in the work. There's more of them than there are of you.
So your ability to keep strategy a priority and your ability to implement your strategy successfully depends on your ability to get other people engaged. This means you have to communicate, which means you need to get their buy-in, which means that you need to let them know that strategy is a priority wherever they sit, and that everything they do in their day to day somehow drives that strategy forward. It's not necessarily that their work is different, but their context is different. And when you have the right context and the right focus and the right 'why', you can make significant progress by making little changes. And that's when organizations that we've seen have the biggest success is when they do it broadly. And get everybody involved, recognize what's important, what's a priority, and what's not.
Beyond Strategy Meetings
The fourth and final thing that I want you to think about is beyond strategy meetings. So you do your strategy meetings or your strategic planning off sites, and depending on who you are, you might do them once a year, you might do them quarterly. There's so much more to strategy implementation, than the strategy creation. So, think of your organization. Are you supporting your people to implement the plan? You know, are you doing what you need to do? Are you putting the right investments, do they have the right tools to be able to implement the plan successfully? You can create a great plan in an off site. But if you don't have the right structure, systems, and processes to be able to move the plan forward, then it's not going to move forward.
Environment Around the Team
The other thing to think about is the environment around the team. One of the things that we've discovered in the past couple years is strategic readiness is a huge part of successful strategy implementation. So you might have a great plan. But if your team isn't communicating, if they're not working well, if they're not sure who's doing what, if they don't have the right psychological trust amongst the team, then even if you have the great plan, even if you have great strategic priorities, and even if it's clear on where you're going, you're going to have a lot of resistance as you move forward.
Not Just a Strategic Plan!
So don't think of strategic planning and strategy implementation as just your two day off site or just going through the strategic planning process (which we can facilitate for you). That really is the 12, 24, 36 months after the fact that you implement the plan, and you make those changes. If you think depending on where you are in the strategy implementation cycle - let's say you do your two day strategic planning off site or you go through the process of creating your plan. Small changes made monthly over 12 months are going to play huge pay huge dividends over the next two and three years. It's a multi year journey. And so you need to approach your strategy implementation as a multi year journey. Of course, it has stages and intervals to it. But you really have to think beyond the strategy meeting. And continuously be investing in yourself, continuously investing in your people so that you can create not only the right implementation for your plan but the right environment for your people and your plan to thrive. Okay, so think beyond strategy meetings as you move forward through strategy implementation.
So four things I want you to consider as a reminder for 2022 as you're implementing your plan.
How are you structuring communication for your team to be clear on what they need to work on, and what information they need to be successful?
You can have all this communication, you can have a great plan, but if there's no accountability, there's no follow up and there's no support, then when the going gets tough, the entire plan is going to fall apart. It's like going to see an inspirational speaker. You might be inspired for a couple days, but without the right accountability systems, it goes down the toilet. So make sure you have the right accountability built in. As part of our implementation packages, we support teams with accountability, because we know it's a critical component to it.
Another way to think about it is like a personal trainer or meeting somebody in the gym. It's not so much that they help you, it's the fact that if you know they're there at the gym, you're going to get your butt out of bed to get there (which is a great 2022 thing to think about).
3) Keeping strategy of priority.
You have to make the strategic work at the top of your list. Otherwise, you're going to get stuck in the weeds, and you're not going to move forward on things that are going to give progress to the business. So don't focus on being busy. Make sure that you're being effective in your work - your work is having an effect on the long term plan.
4) Think beyond strategy meetings.
Strategic implementation, strategy implementation is not just a two day off site, or creating a strategic plan document. It is the days, weeks, and months after the plan that support the implementation of the plan. Two day strategy off site, 1100 days of implementation. Which is more? And where are you investing your time investing your money, investing your energy to move that forward? It's not just the meeting. It's everything that you do, day in and day out. And so building the right structure and support system to move that forward is going to be critical for your success.
Partner with SME Strategy
So if you're looking for somebody that can help you facilitate that process, let us know. We partner with CEOs to make their lives easier - to make your life easier, to give you that structure, give you that process, to help you move your plan forward. So I'd be happy to have a conversation with you about what that could look like. We can walk you through our Strategic Alignment Program. We can walk you through our Implementation programs, and just have a conversation on how we can help you accomplish your goals.
We also host two webinars every month, going over our Alignment and our Implementation programs, so keep an eye out for that as well.
Thanks for Coming!
So thanks so much for watching! I hope this helps you put some structure, a process around your strategy implementation for 2022. I'd love to hear what you took away in the comments. You know, let me know if there's some things that you do really successfully. And then some things that you're going to start doing to move your plan forward in 2022.
Thanks so much for watching. My name is Anthony Taylor, hope you enjoyed and be sure to reach out to us with any questions or comments you have. Alright, see you next time!