Execution … the Secret Sauce of Strategic Planning

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Far too many leaders, managers really, are good at either developing strategies or execution. The fact is that execution is the secret sauce of strategic planning. Like so many dusty three ring binders of costly consulting projects of the past, the most brilliant and spot-on strategy, even when perfectly articulated, is not worth the paper it’s written on without great execution. So, how do you get a line of sight for all your constituents from their day-to-day to these lofty corporate ambitions?

I call it Tactical Translation. What I mean is the process of articulating a concept in ways that are meaningful for various constituencies. I most typically do this by driving the concept through a series of steps that makes it more and more tangible, while clearly demonstrating the linkages. Take a Strategic Vision, for example, where you are taking your organization in the most macro sense, along with a Mission, how your organization fits into the larger whole – whether that is the broader corporate structure or the community, and first talk about specific, measurable Goals. Those goals are readily translatable to Programs. These Programs are major thrusts of the organization, like cost control and risk management, which I discussed yesterday. I like to think that individuals in your call centers, processing facilities and field sales can look at these Programs and say ‘why am I doing this, it isn’t helping us with any of those Programs.’ By the way, you should encourage them to do that, too. Lastly, Programs are comprised of individual Projects or initiatives. This is the working level, where you utilize project management tools to bring effective and efficient closure to individual projects, and where individuals engage on teams to get the real work done. Taken in aggregate, the Projects move the Programs and drive the measurements that constitute the Goals. Utilizing intermediate, achievable, yet challenging Goals ensures that the organization is always on its way toward the Strategic Vision.

That is how you turn strategic plans into execution.

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