Create and Execute a Strategic Plan for your Company

From the November 28, 2003 print edition
Transition Issues

This is the fifth in a series of eight articles on business transition issues.

High-level business achievement starts with a concise strategic plan. The strategic plan needs to be aligned with stakeholders’ values and goals, then executed systematically to achieve the plan. Many have plans; few execute them well. In fact, intensive research out of Harvard University indicates at least 85 percent of businesses do not execute their strategies effectively.

Focus on preparation: Planning is the start of the journey to accomplishment. Planning creates focus and places it on strategic advantages. But a plan needs a target, which is established through vision. A plan with vision inspires. Corporate leaders have the responsibility to create and communicate their vision of the future — where the business is heading. The focus on vision disciplines us to think strategically. It helps us to start with the end in mind, to identify what we are going to create. Vision is one of the most sought-after leadership characteristics. It provides the all important direction to the goal. And that is what leaders do.

Vision sees what must be tomorrow, beyond what is today. Vision is not predicting the 21st century. It’s much more practically seeing what the organization can be next month, next quarter or next year.

Create predictability: The essence of management is predictability. When an enterprise has a high predictable outcome, it is under management. To achieve this crucial result requires measurement. You must measure to manage. So, the first step in developing a measurable implementation process to accomplish a strategic plan is to define the work to be accomplished. Thus, the implementation plan.

To achieve your plan you have to inspect what you expect. All good management systems have a feedback mechanism to assure the preferred results are being achieved. A systematic progress review of the implementation plan is crucial to the process. Without this discipline, a plan is just a dream!

Achieving your strategic plan is a dynamic process, adjusting tasks to be accomplished as more information is available. These are merely course corrections. You know where you want to go; you may have to factor in new direction based on real life feedback.

Execute: In professional sports what separates the winners from the losers is execution. It’s the same in business. Take a look at how well you are executing your plans. Are you in the winners’ column? Ultimately we all are judged by the results we post. To realize the results of a well-thought-out plan, to create that successful tomorrow, requires the best execution. Clear strategies, great communication, terrific relationships, shared values all add to this daunting exercise. Easy? No way! In fact, it’s becoming increasingly difficult. Great business results are based on great execution, just like in sports, which requires orchestrating great talent, knowledge and skills.

This is the opportunity for you and your business to leap ahead of the competition. Take a look at your execution processes. You can either “take what you get” or “get what you prepare for.”

Hal Johnson has been CEO of eight companies and has authored two books on mentoring business performance. He is chairman and CEO of LeadershipONE, a business transition consulting firm. He may be reached at (916) 391-3042 or at [email protected].

© 2003 American City Business Journals Inc.