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Sunday, 28 September 2014

Strategic Planning Time? Make Sure that You Have an Action Plan for Success!

During my long years in management consultancy I have had the pleasant experience of working with leaders on strategies for their business, not to do the work but to assist in setting up the necessary processes and procedures.

It constantly amazes me to discover that while many companies take the planning process seriously the leadership fails to devise a scheme whereby the project is translated into the actions that will take the business forward.

I have had several experiences of helping the leadership produce a well written and considered strategic plan only to find that the beautifully produced document and its contents have not been communicated to everyone in the business and have probably been filed under B or P or even BS.

The fact is that strategic planning is a waste of time and energy unless properly considered and planned actions are included. 

  • Planning without action is nothing more than a statement of hope.
 So what should a flow chart for a properly planned strategy look like?

There are many alternatives but I like this one:

The vision – the values – mission statement – SWOT analysis – setting objectives – the timeline – who is responsible for what by when – accountabilities – monthly monitor with changes as appropriate and as agreed.

All of that will take some time and it would be time well spent.  When the major objectives have been decided (and no more than four is plenty), the next step is to divide each one into sub-objectives that enable the major objective to be achieved.

Each stated objective needs to be analysed against the question:

“If that is our objective, what will we need to do, specifically, to ensure that it will be achieved?”

A brainstorming process using the Ishikawa method is very good.  This uses a fish bone template with the head being the objective and the ribs being the functions that will get you there.

That will enable stated individuals to plan their workload knowing what is required and by when because they have been involved in the preparatory work.  In this way, plans for all the objectives can be devised.

However, what if someone doesn’t achieve in the agreed time?  To mitigate that possibility it is worthwhile agreeing an accountability trail whereby everyone knows to whom they are accountable for successful implementation of the objectives.

Again it is useful to build a simple system starting at the top with the champion of the process (usually the leader), and then the accountability trail.

Timing is all-important if the objectives are to be achieved satisfactorily.  The accountability trail needs to be activated either weekly or monthly so that a quick call a week or so prior to the due date will help to ensure that the plan is being implemented.

All of this may sound complicated and hence onerous.  It is neither, in fact, and proper action planning will help to take the business forward far more effectively.  Crucially everyone in the business needs to be involved so that their personal achievement leads to success in the business.

I recall a very eminent CEO saying, when asked why he was ahead of all his competitors:

“It’s simple, we plan and they don’t.  We know where we are going and when we will arrive and most importantly, we know what success will look like”.

People need to know the answer to two questions:

“How am I doing and where are we going?”

Good action planning will tell them the answers.

PS.  If you would like a typical pro-forma template for accountability planning let me have your email address and I will send it on to you.

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