I spoke this morning with one of my clients who is working to implement the strategy that we have developed over the summer. At a meeting on Friday, my client told me that the leadership team were very enthusiastic about the new strategy, but were keen to ensure that it was “more than just words”. The company’s directors want to make sure that there is real “meat” behind their communication.

This situation is not unusual. Too many organisations fail in their efforts to translate their strategies and ideas into success on the ground. The main reason for this failure is that business leaders don’t spend the time and effort on either creating specific plans to deliver the necessary changes and/or on following through and managing their execution.

Successful strategy implementation requires discipline rather than intellectual brilliance. You need some simple approaches and procedures that encourage pace, accountability and follow-through. Here are five key elements I embed in all the clients that we work with:

  1. For each of the key objectives underpinning your strategy, identify a small set of key strategic initiatives. At one client, for example, a key objective was to grow international sales and so initiatives were created that included website development, sales team training and development and better management of distribution agents.
  2. For each initiative identify a clear owner who will be fully accountable for its delivery. I have found that intentions without accountability are rarely achieved!
  3. For each initiative ask the initiative leader to create an 18-month implementation plan for each project, with milestones and performance goals. The 18 months are split into four sections; the next 3 months (split into what will be achieved each month); 3- 6 months; 6-12 months; 12-18 months. This gives you oversight of the longer-term plans but a clear focus on the next 100 days, encouraging pace.
  4. Undertake monthly reviews of progress against the plan. The review should cover both milestones and KPIs, and be focused on ensuring effective future implementation as much as ticking off success to date. These should be CEO-led sessions so that you can drive accountability across the executive team.
  5. Update your plans every quarter. Plans rarely last longer than this, and this extra discipline enables you to maintain the focus on what will be delivered over the next 90 days, ensuring that you sustain the pace of implementation. This regular process should also ensure that all projects have an end date. Too many projects go on too long and your plans must include an end date and how the changes you deliver will be turned into ‘business as normal’.

© Stuart Cross 2012. All rights reserved.