This section is about implementing the strategic plan for your organisation. It includes how to communicate the plan to all key stakeholders and briefing all relevant parties on their role in achieving the necessary outcomes. It includes a section on setting timelines and milestones, and how to monitor and evaluate its progress. Scenario: Making the vision reality The strategic planning document is complete and now the ‘rubber hits the road’. However, the plan is not effective until implemented. The plan must be well communicated so that all stakeholders understand their responsibilities in its implementation. You must also have a strategy for monitoring and evaluating the progress of the plan, and for revising it in the future. What skills will you need? In order to effectively write the organisation’s strategic plan you must be able to: Communicate the strategic planMonitor and evaluate progress of the planReview and revise the Communicate the strategic plan A frequent complaint about the strategic planning process is that it produces a document that no one uses or refers to. The aim of strategic planning is not in creating a plan but in implementing improvements. The real success of your strategic plan will be in its implementation that gives your organisation a competitive advantage. The following guidelines will help to ensure that the plan is implemented. When conducting the planning process, involve the people who will be responsible for implementing the plan. Use a cross-functional team or matrix team to ensure the plan is collaborative.Ensure the plan is realistic. Continue asking planning participants; ‘Is this realistic? Can we really do this?’.Organise the overall strategic plan into smaller action plans, often including an initiative (or work plan) for each department or individual represented.In the overall planning document, specify who is doing what and by when. Some organisations may elect to include the action plans in a separate document from the strategic plan.Specify and clarify the plan’s implementation roles and responsibilities. Be sure to detail the initiatives to be taken in the first 90 days (quarter) of the implementation process.Build in regular reviews and progress reports of the implementation of the plan.Where possible, translate the strategic plan actions into job descriptions and personnel performance reviews; this will bring accountability to individuals.Communicate how the review process will occur. If employees are aware that the action plans will be regularly reviewed, they tend to be more diligent in completing tasks.Be sure to document and distribute the plan and provide opportunity for feedback from all. This will build ownership and increase the likelihood of successful implementation.Be sure that you are not the only person responsible for the implementation. A successful strategy is implemented by the entire team.Securing support from senior leadership is a major factor in the plan’s implementation. Where possible, integrate the plan’s goals and objectives into senior leadership performance reviews.Place an emphasis on maintaining feedback and progress reports from departmental leaders for review by the senior leadership leadership. Obstacles to effective communication There is often a significant gap in understanding between those who formulated the strategic plan and those who are expected to implement it. Unless the majority of employees in the organisation comprehend and accept the strategic plan, then the chances of its successful implementation are low. There are several reasons why the strategic plan may not be understood or endorsed by employees: Its contents are kept confidential. This may seem strange, but in some organisations details of the strategy are kept secret.Employees may not be interested (low team morale, workplace culture).Employees may not understand it (inappropriate wording and terminology).It was communicated ineffectively.Mixed messages and ideas are being communicated by various department leaders.Employees may feel the strategic plan is wrong.Employees may feel that the plan will have a negative impact on them.Employees may believe that senior leaders have no intention of implementing the plan or feel they do not have the ability to do so.Employees may believe the strategic plan is too future-oriented and is not relevant to their current position or work. Alternatively, Hay and Williamson argue that, in order for a strategic plan to be understood and embraced by the majority of the organisation, it needs to possess the following five qualities: The strategy should provide inspiration in the form of worthwhile and relevant goals and improvements.The strategy should help employees and stakeholders see the link between their own tasks, and initiatives occurring elsewhere in the organisation.The strategy can be used by employees on a daily basis in decision making.The strategy creates levels of discretion for the employee by alleviating some constraints and releasing them to generate new ideas and options.The strategy facilitates communication by establishing a common language that everyone can use. Briefing the employees For effective implementation of the strategic plan, it is important that nothing is left to chance and that you don’t assume everyone understands what is required of them. Everyone needs to be briefed on their specific role in relation to the strategies outlined in the plan. This responsibility may be delegated to departmental leaders to communicate to their units, in which case it is your responsibility to adequately brief your key leaders. Probably the most effective method to achieve this would be face-to-face consultative meetings. It is possible that many of the departmental leaders were involved in writing objectives and action plans for the strategic plan document. This stage of implementation is not about receiving feedback and making further adjustments; rather, it is about communicating details of the strategies and agreeing upon timelines, procedures, reporting and deadlines. Communication methods Clear and thoughtful communication at every level is needed in order to develop and implement your strategic plan. A strategy not communicated is powerless to change your organisation or to influence your future. Effective communication will lead to the implementation of medium-term strategies and day-to-day actions. Selecting the right medium for communicating your strategic plan is important. Presentation – one of the best ways to communicate your strategic plan is via a public presentation or speech. It may be appropriate to deliver this presentation to the entire organisation, or just to the departmental leaders and key stakeholders, e.g. investors and partners. If you are making a presentation, consider your ability to communicate in a way that will hold audience attention and command their allegiance to the strategy. Consider also the size and diversity of your audience and their ability to retain the information. Whether your speech is to a live audience or via web-streaming (to an audience not visible) the dynamics are similar. PowerPoints – are great for visually reinforcing a point within your speech or presentation. They also provide the audience with an opportunity to write down some key information. This medium will prove to be especially helpful when presenting research and results of the SWOT and PEST analyses.Testimonial – personal experience can assist you in reinforcing the plan. This person might be someone who is well respected in the organisation or who has been involved with the strategic planning process and can endorse its credibility.Video conferencing – is an effective and popular form of communication, primarily used for communicating to a small number of key stakeholders. It is extremely helpful if your organisation is located in other parts of the nation or around the It is more likely to be interactive, compared to a presentation/speech which highlight the need for question and answer preparation.Phone conferencing – is an extremely popular and efficient way to communicate to key stakeholders in various locations that may not have the technology to engage in video conferencing. Again, the need for preparation and clarity remains.Email – possibly the most popular form of communication. Some of the advantages are:speed of deliveryelectronic copy can be reproduced by the receiverthe amount of information and detail that can be sentthe document becomes a source for future referenceeveryone receives exactly the sameBrochure document/booklet – a good tool for the constant reinforcement of the mission and strategy, especially during the tenure of the strategic plan (e.g. 1–3 years). It requires good writing skills, graphic design and finance to produce the quality and quantity of materials.Posters and banners – are helpful for reinforcing core values and key mission statements, but inadequate for strategic plan documents.Combination – sometimes the best approach to effective communication is not one method but a combination of a few or all of the above methods. Distribution of the strategic plan The effective communication of a strategic plan also includes its distribution. Certain groups of stakeholders may receive complete copies of the plan, including appendices, while other groups may receive only the body of the plan, without its appendices. Every board member and member of management should receive a copy of the plan.Consider distributing the plan (complete or in part) to everyone in the organisation on a need-to-know basis. A review of the strategic plan can be very helpful to new members of staff, who are learning new aspects of the organisation every day.Display your refined mission and vision and values statements on the walls of your main offices and reception area (as appropriate).Publish portions of your strategic plan in your regular newsletter, and advertising and marketing materials (brochures, ads, website,etc. ).Brief board members and employees on portions of the plan during staff meetings and training sessions, reminding them of the implications of the new strategy.Include portions of the plan in policies and procedures, including the employee manual.Consider distributing copies (complete or in part) to major stakeholders including investors, suppliers, trade associations, potential collaborators, long standing clients, etc. Monitoring and evaluating progress The aim of implementation is to achieve the strategy. The strategy needs to be consistent with the capabilities the organisation has or desires to have, based on the demands of its external environment. Implementation is the culmination of strategic planning; it takes the written plan and makes it a reality. Implementation issues are greatly influenced by assessing the environment, the strategy chosen and the organisation’s internal capabilities. The implementation of a strategy can only be evaluated if there are clear outcomes that can be measured. These measurable outcomes are known as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Establish key performance indicators Key Performance Indicators, also known as KPIs, are measurable goals agreed upon by your company. KPIs provide everyone in your organisation with a clear picture of what is important in order to achieve successful implementation of the strategic plan. They also help to define each person’s role in making that happen. KPIs may be departmental or individual. On an organisational level, KPIs are typically tied to a company’s strategy and are used to help an organisation define and evaluate how successful it is. The KPI, when developed properly, should provide all staff with clear goals and objectives, coupled with an understanding of how they relate to the overall success of the organisation. Published internally and continually referred to, they will also strengthen shared values and create common goals. A KPI is a key part of a measurable objective, which is made up of a direction, KPI, benchmark, target, and timeframe. For example, a retail company may state that they will ‘Increase the average revenue per customer from $30 to $35 by end of year 2012.’ A KPI should not be confused with a Critical Success Factor (CSF). For the example given above, ‘average revenue per customer’ is the KPI, whilst the factor critical to the KPI’s success (i.e. CSF) might be a new product range or better marketing of existing products. KPIs are also frequently used to add value (or measurement) to activities that are sometimes hard to measure, such as the benefits of leadership development or customer satisfaction. On an individual level, when setting KPIs for employees there are three basic principles you need to be aware of: Key – is of fundamental importance and a ‘make or break’ component in the success or failure of the enterprise. For example, the level of staff turnover is an important factor in business operations, but it may not be critical (key) if the company has no problem in attracting new staff and continuing productivity.Performance – can be clearly measured, quantified and easily influenced by the organisation. For example, bad weather influences many tourist-related businesses, but the organisation cannot influence the weather. Sales growth in holiday packages may be important to performance criteria but the targets set must be measurable.Indicator – provides leading information on future performance. A considerable amount of data within the organisation only has value for historical purposes, for example, annual trends in sales or how long it takes for invoices to be paid. By contrast, rates of new product development provide excellent leading edge information. Key make or break component Performance measurable and quantifiable. Indicator provides information usable for future performance. Make adjustments to KPIs KPIs are an instrument used to provide feedback on performance and can alter over time due to changes in objectives, roles and priorities. The key to making adjustments to KPIs is to continue to incorporate the characteristics that make them effective, ensuring that they: are aligned with the overall strategy, and are relevant and refreshed when appropriateare owned by the team and the individualsare leading indicatorscan be actioned within the team contextare limited to just a few in numberare easy to understandlink back to the overall objectivesare standardised in definition, calculation and rulesare reinforced by incentives. If KPIs are not being met or are not able to be met by an individual within a team, sometimes it may be necessary to evaluate the portfolio of work assigned to them and other team members. This can occur for a range of reasons, from a change in the assigned workload (which can be seasonal) or a new skill being required. Usually within a team environment it is possible to re-allocate job-tasks to ensure workloads are equitable, and to ensure that the person with the required skill set is assigned to the task. Learning activity: Characteristics of effective KPIs Identify three ways that KPIs could be reinforced with incentives. Responsibility The initial stages of strategic planning should include discussion about who bears responsibility for monitoring and reviewing the plan. These responsibilities should be clearly stated in the plan itself. Management at various levels would normally be responsible for achieving objectives relevant to their work area, and reporting upwards. Ultimate responsibility for the success of the strategic plan, however, always rests with the CEO. This may sometimes include reporting to the Board or Management Committee. Monitoring tools Timelines These are the most basic charts, but can easily be used to identify the stages when milestones should occur or objectives should be achieved. These are mapped on the timeline between a fixed start point and end point, and provide quick reference to check the progress of the planned activities, tasks and outcomes. Gantt charts Gantt charts are a graphical representation of the duration of tasks against the progression of time, and are a useful tool for planning and scheduling. They are particularly useful for showing a schedule of tasks and required resources, and measuring the completion of the tasks against a timeline. In the example above, you can see that some tasks are overlapping, however they have different resources allocated to them. You can also see the progress of the plan in general, either simply (by examining the ticks running down the left-hand side of the task list) or in detail, by checking the dates (along the top of the right-hand half of the diagram). There is a range of software titles available to help you develop Gantt charts, and software like Microsoft Project (in which this Gantt chart was developed) is particularly suitable. However, they can also be created by hand or using various spreadsheet software. If you want to learn how to construct a Gantt chart in Excel, the following link may be useful: Reviewing and revising the plan Comparing performance When setting goals and objectives for your organisation, they need to be aimed at continuous improvement, challenging individuals to greater heights of performance and pushing your organisation to greater levels of influence within your industry. You need to decide how your organisation will assess its performance in any particular area of the strategy. Performance can be measured at one point in time against comparative standards. It can also be measured over periods of time using trend analysis. There are several ways you can measure your organisation’s performance at one point in time, by making comparisons with: past performancesinternal targetsindustry averagesbest industry practiceworld best practice. Past performance is useful to see whether or not you are improving. However, if ‘improving’ means doing better than last year, but last year’s performance was poor, then this improvement may not be good enough. Internal targets should provide a better estimate than past performance because they take into account current conditions, expected improvements and required levels of performance. To avoid subjectivity, some organisations aim to beat the industry average. Whether performance is up or down on last year’s performance, comparing yourself with the best in your industry may be the best way to raise performance standards. If you are a leader in your particular industry, comparing yourself to the industry average or best in the country may not be very challenging or useful to the process of continuous improvement. In this instance, comparing your organisation to world best practice may be more appropriate. Benchmarking Benchmarking is the process of identifying ‘best practice’ in relation to both products and the processes by which those products are created and delivered. The search for ‘best practice’ can take place both inside a particular industry, and in other industries, i.e. are there lessons to be learned from other industries? The objective of benchmarking is to understand and evaluate the current position of a business or organisation in relation to ‘best practice’, and to identify areas and means of performance improvement. Strategic benchmarking is about re-aligning business strategies that have become inappropriate, and finding ways of closing gaps in performance. It involves considering high level aspects such as core competencies, developing new products and services, and improving capabilities for dealing with change in the external environment. Section summary You should now understand how to communicate the strategic plan to all relevant parties within the organisation. You should also understand the processes required to effectively monitor and review the plan’s implementation. Further reading Hill, C. W. L., Jones, G. I. R., Galvin, P., and Haidar, A., 2007, Strategic management: An integrated approach, 2nd Australasian edn, John Wiley & Sons, Australia (chapter 12).Stettinius, W., Robley Wood, D., Doyle, J., and Colley, J. L., 2005, How to plan and execute strategy, McGraw Hill, USA. (pp. 33–48).Wikipedia, ‘Gantt chart’, viewed August 2015, . Section checklist Before you proceed to the next section, make sure that you are able to: Communicate the strategic planMonitor and evaluate progress of the planReview and revise the Glossary TermDefinitionBenchmarkingProcess used by an organisation to assess current practice by comparing with the best practice of other organisations.Joint/cooperative ventureAgreement by two or more parties to produce a product or offer a service together.KPIKey performance indicator – measurable outcome for an activity.Mission statementDescribes the purpose of the organisation.StakeholdersOrganisations, groups and individuals that have an interest in a particular organisation, activity or course of action.Strategic planPlan outlining the medium and long-term objectives of an organisation, and how they will be achieved.StrategiesDetail for how objectives will be achieved.Value chainDescribes the series of activities that an organisation performs to generate value to customers.Vision statementDescribes the ideal long-term future of the organisation.
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