How to Translate Strategies into Actions

How to Translate Strategies into Actions
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Disconnect Between Strategy and Implementation
Here is a typical scenario that illustrates the challenge when you try to translate strategies into actions. Do you recognize it? The executives at their strategy retreat produce a well-considered, extensive, and ambitious strategy. They present the plan to their management team and then disengage. The implementation is left up to the employees.

Somewhere between the planning stage and implementation, there is a fatal disconnect. Fortune magazine reports that 70-90% of corporate strategies fail to achieve their goals because their organizations do not carry the plans through to successful completion. Our own organizational alignment research found that employees perceive strategic plans to be half as clear to them as to their leadership team.

What is going wrong?

Strategy Should Be a Team Sport
We maintain that the problem is that executives do not actively involve their workforce in the strategy process. As a result, employees do not fully understand, buy into, or commit to the goals.  This causes strategic ambiguity, strategic misalignment, doubt in leadership, and employee frustration.

When an organization’s leadership does not meaningfully engage the very people who will be responsible for implementation of the strategy, they have missed the point: successful strategy implementation is a team sport.

The Essential Link
Leaders need to understand that their well-intentioned plans for the organization’s future are likely to fail if it is created in a vacuum. Instead, strategies should not only be communicated to every employee, but strategies should also be co-created by employees so that there is a clear connection between the strategy and the day-to-day practices of the workforce.

Here’s Where Many Go Wrong
Many leaders fail to:

  1. Engage All Workers Down to the Frontline
    Before the strategy is fully baked, it needs to be considered and evaluated by those who will be affected by it and responsible for implementing it. Often the best ideas on how to execute the strategy come from those who will be doing the work. The early and active involvement of employees in strategic planning is needed to help translate the ideal goals into those that can be achieved.
  2. Stick to the Plan
    Maintaining a focus on the strategic priorities can be challenging in the midst of day-to-day work and unexpected fires that have to be quelled. It is the responsibility of leadership to support a balance of daily “run the business” issues and the long-term “change the business” work that strategy is all about.
  3. Monitor Progress against the Plan
    Leaders need to see that there are regularly scheduled sessions at every layer of the organization to ensure that a culture of accountability is in place to drive transparency, progress, and continuous improvement. Teams need to be accountable for showing that their daily work is guided by and moving toward the priorities that matter most.
  4. Course Correct
    Leaders need to recognize that strategies are a journey; they are not set in stone. Lower level managers should have the flexibility to make necessary adjustments to keep on track. They may recommend a shift in timing or resources in order to deliver against the plan.

The Bottom Line
Be sure you are in the elite group of organizations that has figured out how to successfully execute against the corporate strategy. Include multiple levels of the workforce in crafting the overall plan. That’s the way to earn employees’ commitment, engagement, and hard work.

To learn more about how to ensure you are ready to translate strategies into actions, download 7 Proven Ways to Stress Test Your Strategy

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