Strategic Planning is a powerful tool that can help companies define and meet both their short- and long-term goals. However, when we talk to companies about strategic planning, too often we hear, “We tried that, and it didn’t work.” Many companies develop a plan, only to see it collect dust on a shelf or in a filing cabinet. This often results in frustration and a negative opinion regarding the value of strategic planning.
The truth is that building a strategic plan is only half the battle in reaching your strategic goals. Effective deployment and management of a strategic plan allow you to get that plan off the shelf and use it in a practical way to guide daily activities. It will also help you say “no” to distractions that consume valuable resources and don’t support your long-term goals.
Strategic Plan Deployment
To achieve long-term success, it is critical to put the plan into action in a way that includes clear communication, employee participation, and traceable metrics to monitor progress and make adjustments. These proven elements are critical to successful deployment of a strategic plan:
1. Communication: Companies thrive when leaders build trust, practice proactive communication, and address the personal and practical needs of their team. This takes hard work, but the payoffs are well worth the effort.
2. Organizational Alignment: Successful plan deployment requires more listening than telling. To achieve group commitment and alignment with strategic goals, employees must be encouraged to actively participate in aligning their daily work with the strategic goals of the organization.
Many leaders attempt to simultaneously facilitate and participate in the strategic planning process. Our experience is that this approach limits team buy-in and commitment to the plan and commonly undermines the entire well-intentioned process. Consider an outside planning facilitator, such as GaMEP, to help you achieve the best results. As an alternative, appoint a team member who is not the most senior leader to facilitate the process.
Companies demonstrate organizational alignment when they can answer “yes” to the following:
- Can the leadership team describe the mental models for the desired future state of the organization?
- Do everyday decisions and actions support strategic priorities?
- Does everyone in the organization know and understand the company’s vision and how their work contributes to reaching the desired future state?
“If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.” – Patrick Lencioni
3. Performance Metrics: Meaningful performance metrics that measure progress toward your strategic goals and objectives are critical for success. This includes daily functional and plant-level information as well as corporate activities linked to the strategic priorities.
However, defining the metrics is only the beginning. Effective plan deployment not only identifies what those metrics are but also develops specific tactics to easily track and analyze those metrics. This often includes visual management tools created and maintained by team members on a daily or weekly basis.
Strategic Plan Management
Companies achieve their strategic goals when they apply the Plan, Do, Check, Adjust (PDCA) model to manage the plan. Effective plan management requires diligent attention to the following aspects:
1. Consistent Tracking – Many good strategic plans fail because companies get overwhelmed with daily disruptions. Companies must incorporate tools that support a culture of accountability and maintain focus on the plan. Some of the tools we recommend are Management for Daily Improvement, Gemba Walks, A3 tracking sheets, and routine short stand-up meetings.
2. Leadership Development – Strong leaders aren’t born, they are made. They have learned how to separate daily tactical needs from important strategic decisions. The process takes time and intentional effort as managers evolve from subject matter technical experts to transformational leaders. GaMEP can provide Leadership Needs Analysis and Advanced Leadership Skills training to help fill gaps and strengthen the team.
3. Cadence and Momentum– Momentum is maintained and builds on itself when team members understand their roles and witness progress toward the goal. Successful plan management includes routine, short, and productive meetings to communicate progress. Leadership must be committed to and consistent with this process. This requires thoughtful analysis of available time and resources during the planning phase and a process to react immediately to any abnormal results.
Whether your company is large or small, strategic planning is a critical tool for future success and growth. GaMEP’s strategic planning process helps manufacturers establish and execute a relevant and effective strategic plan and is broken into 4 distinct phases: Discovery, Development, Deployment & Plan Management.
This tip sheet describes the process of the last two phases; Deployment & Plan Management. Read How to Write an Effective Strategic Plan, for more information on the Discovery and Development phases.
By: Adam Hayes, Senior Project Manager, Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership