On January 25, the Wall Street Journal ran an article “Strategic Plans Lose Favor.” If you have read it, perhaps you sensed the same thing we did: This really wasn’t an article critiquing the elements of Strategic Plans, it was more over a laundry list of all the reasons you would want to have an effective, flexible execution strategy.
Revelations by management made in the article make you wonder if execution strategies found a way into any of the strategic plans at hand. Some include: the need for monthly instead of quarterly reviews; the need to review a strategic plan to see if it is “as relevant as it was three-years ago”; and a “switch from distant calendars and rigid forecasts of the past.”
The only thing that should be rigid in a strategic plan is an organizational commitment to properly execute it. This includes monthly executive reviews that are fed by weekly staff updates. If problems in the action elements of the plan arise, this prompts corrective adjustment each month.
Adjust the Plan for Execution
If something within a plan can’t be executed, the plan needs to be adjusted… and it can’t take three years to have this happen. Regular, cyclical communications from the staff to the managers to the executives are essential. Routine assessments for internal and external feed into this process as well. These can’t be implemented when crisis calls, these need to find their place during the writing of the plan itself.
In this way execution is tied into planning, much like a journey is guided by a compass. Make no mistake; this is a time investment, and one that requires an organizational structure with its influences in check. In fact the “Inability to manage change effectively or to overcome internal resistance to change” is cited as the #1 Obstacle to Strategy Execution in Warton Business School professor Lawrence Hrebiniak’s Making Strategy Work (2005).
Proper strategy execution keeps a plan adaptive. Contrary to what the WSJ article states, being adaptive is not a new approach. It’s just a necessary one that seems to get overlooked or underestimated once strategic plans find final approvals, yet no good plan is so final that it is fireproof to changes inherent around us all.
Is your strategy execution process lined up that will keep your plan current and aligned for your organization?