How to Actually Implement Your Strategic Plan

A strategic plan provides the clarity your business needs to make real progress, but how does this strategy actually get implemented? Once you’ve got a solid strategy in place, it’s time to turn this into action – at the end of the day, it’s what you actually do that makes the difference. But how do you turn your strategic plan into something that impacts what you and your team do each day?

Let your Strategy Dictate Your Weekly Priorities

A weekly team meeting is an ideal time to reconnect our teams’ activities to our strategy. Instead of following the standard agenda that’s probably carrying items forward that may or may not be top priorities, these meetings should be structured around your goals and focus areas from your strategic plan.

Start the meeting by recapping your vision and then dive into each focus area and the specific goals associated with those. Despite whatever turbulence has happened during the week, these meetings are the ideal opportunity to get the team refocused on the top strategic priorities. If necessary, recap why these were chosen as the top priorities for the moment and then move into implementation mode.

For each goal in your strategic plan, ask questions like:

  • “What progress have we made towards this goal?”
  • “What is the next thing we need to do to move this forward?”
  • “What do we need to do next in order to reach this goal?”

Once you’ve agreed on what needs to happen next, it’s time to allocate specific actions to specific team members. These should be broken down into things that they will actually get done in the next 7 days (before the next meeting). Make sure everyone is extremely clear about what is expected of them.

Use Accountability to Create Momentum

Accountability is one of the primary reasons we organize ourselves into teams, groups, and businesses to get things done. Most of us are far more likely to get something done when we know that our peers are relying on us to do that thing. No-one wants to let the team down!

Although most of us also dislike meetings, and it’s certainly true that a lot of time is wasted in meetings, they make up for this because of the ways they motivate us to get things done. Smart business leaders maximize the power of accountability by tying commitment to the highest priority items – those from the strategic plan. So, the next weekly meeting would start with the same recap of the vision and focus areas, and then each team member would be requested to provide an update on their action items. Essentially, ‘did we do the things we said we were going to do?’

This is where team culture comes into play. Is your team in the habit of expecting that planned actions will be done? Or has it become normal for things to be delayed for weeks on end. Setting the expectation that we should be realistic in our intentions and then do everything in our power to get those things done is an important part of turning a strategy into action.

Train Your Team to use a Daily Action List

So now that team members have a list of high priority tasks to get done in the week, how does that translate into what they do each day?

Unfortunately, most of us still operate from a to-do list that stretches to the moon and back. There’s a never-ending list of things that should be done and not enough time in the day to do them all. We start each work-day with a vague sense of what we want to accomplish and finish frustrated as more items have been added to our list and few have been achieved. But thankfully, there’s a better way to get things done…

If you ask a successful person how they manage their day, you’ll soon find that most of them use some form of a daily action list to keep focused as they move through their days. A daily action list is a short list of the highest priority actions we plan to do that day. It’s rewritten (or at least adjusted) each day based on the results of the previous day. Importantly, there should only be 3-5 items on the list and each item should be quite small (eg expected to take less than an hour).

Working from a short daily action list is the best way to ensure that the highest priority items get done. When we have too many items on our list, we inevitably tend to avoid the highest priority items – after all, they’re usually the most difficult in some way. When we create a discipline of choosing only a handful of high impact actions to get done each day, we can make enormous progress.

It’s difficult to change how your team works but you can set the example by explaining the methodology and showing how you incorporate it into your own work day. To take it a step further, many teams also use a system of sharing their daily action lists using a whiteboard, their chat tool, or a team productivity tool designed for this purpose. This transparency creates accountability and focus on a daily basis and really gets your team pulling together to make your strategic plan a reality.

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Small Actions, Done Consistently is what Creates Results

As a former strategy consultant, I know first hand that the best plan in the world won’t make any difference if it’s not implemented. Taking action is what creates results.

With a new strategic plan in hand, it’s easy to get excited and start trying to implement everything at once. It’s great to ride the wave of enthusiasm that a strategic planning session brings, but it’s equally important to set in place processes and structures that will help you continue to take action – even once the excitement has worn off.

The weekly meeting serves as a forum to:

  • refocus the team on the vision, focus areas and goals,
  • report in on the priority actions we agreed to do during the last meeting, and
  • set the next few actions that will take us closer to our goals.

Then, a daily action plan helps team members:

  • break their high priority tasks into bite-sized pieces,
  • allocate the time required to actually get those things done, and
  • introduces some positive peer pressure to provide extra motivation to get them done!

As Stephen Covey famously said; “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing,” and that’s exactly what this method does. By keeping your team members focused on taking daily actions towards your strategic goals, your business will gain the benefits of the strategic plan you thought so long and hard about.

A clear strategy that flows through to daily actions for each team member is a true competitive advantage.

Fiona Adler writes about entrepreneurship at DoTheThings.com and is the founder of Actioned.com – a productivity tool for individuals and teams. With an MBA, multiple business successes, and a family living in a foreign country, she enjoys pushing the envelope to get the most out of life and loves helping others do the same.

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