Never lose sight of the fact that strategic plans are guidelines, not rules. Deviating from your plan is okay, but you need to understand why you make a course correction. The figure below gives a visual decision map to help you determine whether you need to adapt your plan.
Every three months or so, evaluate the plan implementation by asking these key questions:
- Will the goals be achieved within the time frame of the plan? If not, why?
- Should the deadlines be modified? (Before you modify deadlines, figure out why you’re behind schedule.)
- Do we need to renegotiate when folks from other departments are going to be needed? Why?
- Are the goals and action items still realistic?
- Should the company’s focus be changed to put more focus on achieving the goals?
- Should the goals be changed? (Be careful about making these changes – know why efforts aren’t achieving the goals before changing the goals.)
- What can be gathered from this adaptation to improve future planning activities?
Adapt your plan accordingly. Always keep copies of past plans and include an updated date in the footer of the document.
Remember that implementation is the most difficult part of the planning process. No one factor from the preceding list makes or breaks the successful implementation of the strategic plan. However, when these areas are considered and acted on, the chances for successful implementation are greatly improved. Most importantly, a business that has a strategic plan and implements it is ahead of 90% of the companies that have no plan at all.