Strategic execution, planning for firms

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Are you working in an organisation which values leaders capable of translating your strategy into action? Are the leaders in your organisation focussing on putting the right resources in place to achieve results? Are you focussed on creating intended outcomes? How effective are you at implementing your strategy and aligning people with goals?

Planning purpose

Planning enables an organisation to define its values and main objectives, have greater control over its direction, be proactive, build teamwork and improve financial performance.

It is for this reason that as an institution of leadership we recommend a toolkit that assists organisations in this endeavour. This toolkit enables organisations to develop strategic and operational plans which can be executed into action with little hassle. Strategy execution is the greatest unaddressed issue in the business world today. Its absence is the single biggest obstacle to success and the cause of most of the disappointments that are mistakenly attributed to other causes.

Toolkit

This toolkit has been developed to assist organisations to develop strategic and operational plans. Strategic and operational planning is at the foundation of an organisation’s activities. A strategic plan sets out where your organisation is heading and why it is heading there. An operational plan details how your organisation will get there.

This toolkit provides a process and tools to develop a strategic and operational plan. It will help those involved in leading functional processes in organisations to better understand the environment in which their organisation functions, its strengths, weaknesses and any issues the organisation may be attempting to address.

Applying toolkit

The toolkit contains a series of task sheets. Multiple copies of some task sheets will need to be printed or photocopied for distribution amongst the planners. The number of copies required is noted in the instructions of each work sheet. Other task sheets such as the attendance should be printed off just once. The majority of task sheets also include a partially completed version, for the facilitator to use to prompt participants or to give examples of the style of answers required. At the back of the resource is a series of sheets to guide the facilitator through collating and condensing the information gathered during the planning sessions to produce the strategic and operational plan.

Strategic plan essence

The strategic plan outlines the organisation’s direction for the future and a broad framework of goals and objectives to be achieved in line with this direction.

The strategic plan typically applies across a three to five-year period, and identifies the areas that need particular attention during this period to ensure the organisation gets to where it wants to be.

If the objectives identified in the strategic plan are to be achieved, it is essential the related strategies are further mapped out in an operational plan that details specific actions to be undertaken.

Operational plan

The operational plan details how the organisation will accomplish the goals, objectives and strategies outlined in the strategic plan. It includes the actions to be undertaken in line with the strategic plan objectives, who are responsible for carrying out these actions, and the time frames, costs and key performance indicators associated with these actions.

The operational plan should apply to the life of the strategic plan, but should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure sufficient progress is being made towards achieving the objectives and so priorities can be revised as necessary.

Key execution factors

Maintain your focus. What characteristics are necessary to stay in focus? You cannot go wrong if you think about maintaining a realistic attitude, simplicity and clarity. How realistic are your plans given your resources? How realistic is this plan given the marketplace and the target customers?

The strategy must be as simple as possible. Usually only a few goals can be pursued effectively at any time. Simple, clear objectives that are commonly understood throughout the organisation are best. Distilling strategy to its essentials can deepen the understanding of employees. Develop tracking systems that facilitate problem solving. Develop measures, not only for planning, but for the execution phase as well. Do your measures really tell you whether you have accomplished the objective? Does the tracking system get to the heart of the problem you are trying to fix? The right measures help make expectations clear. Do not let the data get in the way of discussing why things are not working. Facing reality makes the difference. It is up to the leader to see that meaningful conversations take place after all the numbers are reported. Set up formal reviews. Successful execution of plans means continual reviews. Meetings should track objectives and variances with a critical eye towards corrective action. People and resources should be a top priority at review sessions. The right people need to be in the right roles. This means continual evaluation.

Resources must be in place to execute successfully. Do your people have what they need? Managers who excel in execution rely on dashboard tools or summary documents to track resources and objectives.

Some firms use quarterly action booklets that list major objectives, key actions, resources and dates. The goal is to balance simplicity with thoroughness. You must get a clear picture of the primary initiatives, the key metrics they are impacting, and who is accountable for each, in order to have a true measure of your progress.

Mandeya is an executive coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Leadership Institute for Research and Development (LiRD). — robert@lird.co.zw, info@lird.co.zw or +263 772 466 925.

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