In my last post, I shared the top 4 reasons why 9 out of 10 strategic plans fail. Now that we're in a new year and need to put these plans into motion, you'll need to get everyone in your company moving toward your established goals. In order to do this, it's best to make your strategic plan as focused and as simple as possible, but not too simple. Here are 6 tactics you can use to improve your strategic plan's success rate and achieve your goals.
Tactic 1: Establish Your Vision, Mission, and Overarching Goals
When setting out on a new course, you'll want to take stock of all of the issues that could either aid or interfere in your progress. Capture customer, employee, and shareholder feedback to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. In fact, it's wise to give top priority to customer feedback, since every company's future ultimately depends on its ability to serve their customers better than their competitors.
This in-depth analysis of your company from the outside in is essential for charting the right course in a fast changing world. Here are some examples of overarching goals, and how to measure them, for each of your major constituents:
- Customer: The “provider of choice” as measured by customer delight.
- Employee: The “employer of choice” as measured by employee satisfaction levels.
- Shareholder: #1 in shareholder return as measured by capital gain plus dividend.
- Community: “Highly valued member of community” as measured by philanthropic contributions.
Tactic 2: Measure Your Progress
Once you've established your primary goals, you will need to make sure that you develop strategies to achieving them. I like to use the “rule of 3”: target 3 major strategies for each identified goal. You will also need to develop concrete metrics with breakthrough objectives for each strategy that will allow you to track your progress on an ongoing basis.
For example, if you were to focus on the #2 overarching goal on the above list (becoming the "employer of choice"), this is one strategy you could establish, including relevant metrics:
Strategy: Retain the Best
"We will retain outstanding performers at every level by providing a challenging environment with ample opportunities to grow."
- Performance Metric: Employee Retention
- Current Performance: 76%
- Pacesetter: 85%
Tactic 3: Turn Long-Term Strategies into Short-Term Tactics
Now that you've defined the clear-cut goals, strategies, and metrics for your company, it's time to analyze the gaps between your current performance and the benchmark. To continue with the “Retain the best employees” strategy, you can use my “rule of 3” again to identify 3 tactics to close the gap in the coming 12-18 months. An important note, just as with strategies, limit yourself to listing only 3 achievable tactics. Any more and you risk lowering your chances of making any progress due to resource constraints, lack of focus, etc., so it's best to keep it simple.
Here are the 3 tactics you can use to retain the best employees:
- Establish career path and incorporate career planning into annual performance reviews.
- Maintain manager to field service engineer staffing ratio to enable career guidance, training needs, and performance feedback.
- Establish field service engineer training and certification plans that complement employee career paths.
Tactic 4: Get Everyone on Board
Once you've identified the tactical plan for the upcoming year, you'll then need to deploy the objectives throughout your organization using a concept called the “time span of control.” As the leader, you are focused on delivering the year:
- Your management team has to deliver 4 good quarters to achieve the annual objectives.
- Their team has to deliver 3 good months every quarter.
- The front line leaders have to deliver 4 good weeks every month.
- Each employee has to deliver 5 good days each week.
"Establish clear objectives so everyone in your company knows how they contribute to your company's strategic goals."
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Deploying your objectives in this way ensures that everyone in your company knows the duties expected of them and how their day-to-day work directly contributes to the company's strategic goals. It also identifies the budget required to achieve each tactic and you'll be able to spot where your incentives are misaligned.
To continue with our example goal of retaining the best employees, one objective you can deploy is to establish career paths. To follow the “time span of control” for this objective, the following must happen:
- The leadership team establishes career paths that align with future needs.
- Regional managers formally incorporate a career discussion into the annual performance appraisal.
- Each district manager holds quarterly “ride-alongs” to understand training needs.
- Employees have training and certification courses that they must complete.
Tactic 5: Put Together a Simple Strategic Document to Serve as Your Compass
Once you've completed this integrated planning process, you then publish a simple, straightforward 3-page strategic plan that lists your vision, goals, strategies, and top priority tactics. For an example of what this looks like, download this free Hardware Manufacturer's Strategic Growth Plan TSIA has designed for any service executive looking to transform their business.
This document is the official company-wide strategic plan that sets the direction each year, and the best part is that everyone gets a copy. This format is designed to be short and to the point to help everyone within your company focus on the top priorities for the upcoming year as you journey to your five-year goals.
Tactic 6: Stick to a Results-Oriented Management Process
While winning strategies and tactics are important, don't forget that even the best plan in the world is only ink on a page until you put it to work, and make it work. You will have to be disciplined in converting this good work into breakthrough results, which is where the “time span of control” comes in handy again.
Each management level described above has to develop a process and scorecards around their “time span of control” to ensure they've chosen the right tactics and are delivering predicted results. For example:
- Every quarter, the board and investment community requires the leaders to provide a status to ensure progress to the annual objectives.
- To ensure those quarterly calls go well, you will need to conduct monthly operational reviews with your management team to make sure they deliver 3 good months.
- Your management team establishes, for example, weekly staff meetings to ensure that they deliver 4 good weeks.
- Each employee knows what they have to do each day to ensure they deliver 5 good days.
How This Simpler Strategy Doc Can Help You Achieve Your Strategic Plan and Avoid Failure
The reason this approach works so well is that it specifically addresses the four reasons why strategic plans fail, as I outlined in my last post.
To recap, here are all four of the reasons strategic plans fail once more, and how this plan prevents them from happening.
- Reason for Failure #1: “Employees don't understand the strategy.”
Solution: The 3-page strategic plan format is easily understood and aligns strategy, tactic, and measurements for every employee.
- Reason for Failure #2: “The executive team spends less than an hour per month to discuss the strategy.”
Solution: Results-oriented management process focused on achieving your quarterly goals via a scorecard (the final page of the strategic growth plan example above) ensures that you are talking about the metrics that align to this year's efforts, not yesterday's.
- Reason for Failure #3: “The budget is not aligned to the strategic plan.”
Solution: Restricting tactics forces prioritization and budgets are assessed against the tactics.
- Reason for Failure #4: “Employee incentives are not aligned to the strategic plan.”
Solution: Incentives are reassessed against the priorities to ensure you're encouraging the right behavior.
You don't get points for predicting rain. You get points for building arks. – Lou Gerstner
I created this strategic growth plan to help you start putting points on the board. TSIA can provide the strategic insights to establish your overarching goals. Our benchmarking can show where your largest opportunities are and what the pacesetter tactics are to help you significantly improve your business.
Read the other post in the "How to Achieve Your Strategic Plan" series:
About the Author
Vele Galovski is vice president of research, Field Services, for TSIA. Using his nearly 30 years of industry experience, he has consistently helped companies both large and small drive double-digit top-line growth with a proven retain, gain, and grow strategy. Vele has also written a book, The Perpetual Innovation Machine, which describes a holistic approach to management based on ambitious goal setting, data driven analysis, skillful prioritization, inspiring leadership, and the lost art of employee engagement. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org