Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What Are the Elements of Good Strategic Planning?

By Dea Harrington
From the article series, Strategy for the Real World



Ask anyone for the definition of “strategy” and you will most assuredly get a myriad of subjective definitions. To keep us on the same page, here is a brief (and subjective) primer. Strategy (high level) is the plan developed by organization leaders to enhance the health and growth of the entity. Put simply, it states the desired goals (success measured by metrics) and the actions that this group believes the rest of the organization should take to meet these goals. This is then handed to the unit leaders who begin the activity known as Implementation or Execution. In my experience and research, this is the most critical and difficult phase of the strategy process. In fact, based on several respected research articles, organization implementation failure rates average 59 percent. (2015)*

When the high-level Strategy is unveiled to the unit leader, it is the first step in Strategic Planning. Creating and project managing the operational plan to ‘make it so’, is the key to success. Here are a few essentials in managing a successful execution plan.

Elements of Successful Planning
  • Keep it simple. Impressively written strategies or execution plans do not necessarily communicate well to everyone and, therefore, interrupt efforts to accomplish the strategy.
  • Create the implementation project plan by using one of the better strategy planning or project management applications. Make sure that the framework clearly identifies the major contributions the unit identified with the required tasks, the expected results, required resources and investment, and projected timeline.
  • Consult and assist other unit leaders, especially those who are horizontally connected by function. (This is an opportunity to create a valuable Horizontal Unit Team.)
  • Align the most important resource (people) and present the strategy and the project implementation plan, highlighting the importance of their individual contribution to meeting the goals. (Remember: you know more about the unit operation than the executive group and your people probably know more about the operational reality than you do.) Enlist their advice at every step.
  • Institute scheduled update meetings with staff and front-line representatives. Monitor and evaluate each task for schedule adherence, status and confirm original success metrics. weekly status updates to all stakeholders.
  • Be brave and continue to refocus the unit’s efforts. A lack of persistence is the only genuine failure.

* Candido, C.J.F. and S.P. Santos (2015) Strategy implementation: What is the failure rate? Journal of Management and Organization, 21(2),237-262. 


Dea Harrington is the founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Harrington Consulting Group, a leading provider of strategic and tactical guidance for organizations dependent upon first class contact center operations. Her blend of senior corporate management experience and consulting acumen has helped a broad range of Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, and higher education institutions develop a process for planning and implementing strategies that align seamlessly with operations. She had been a leader in the development of internal marketing programs that effectively communicate organizational goals and each employee’s role in meeting them.

Follow Dea on LinkedIn.

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