You’ve created a brilliant strategy and a perfectly crafted short strategy statement. Is this enough to achieve your goals? Of course not. Your strategy must now be supported with a strategic plan (or, for larger firms, a set of inter-linked strategic plans).
Implementing a Strategic Plan
Implementing strategy has several challenges. A strategic plan must carefully consider all of these challenges and provide a detailed map that is confident of achieving its goals. To ensure that it does, use the following seven questions to guide your plan’s development:
- What do you want your customers to experience?
Your strategy will have painted the broad brushstrokes of the customer experience but it’s now time to identify the detail – and the more detail the better. Remember our Italian restaurant? How will the customer get to it? How long will this take? What does the customer see as she approaches the front door? Who will greet her? Seat her? What will she see, hear and smell on the way to her table? And so on.
If you’re selling goods online, you already know to carefully consider your website design and performance. In addition, think about things like the delivery options your customer will choose from. What will the package look like? What will the customer see when he opens the box? Will he know what to do if something’s not right?
In short, describe the experience that will delight your customer at every turn.
- What must be put in place to provide this customer experience?
In this step, identify all of the things and procedures that are required to create and then sustain your desired customer experience.
For example, your restaurant will need a building, a parking lot, a specific interior design, menus, staff uniforms, dishes, cutlery, tablecloths, a sound system, suppliers, cooks, servers, weekly staff meetings, daily management meetings, and so on.
Throughout this step, keep your customer uppermost in your mind. Re-visit step 1 occasionally to ensure that you’re meeting all of their needs.
- Who will do the work?
These next two questions are terribly important. You’ve heard it said that “people are everything”. Nowhere is this more true than in strategy execution. Take the time now to ensure that you’ve got the right people and they have everything they need to make your customers happy.
If you’ve already got staff, identify which of them will be assigned to do the work. If you need to hire, determine the appropriate attributes and characteristics that would make a successful candidate.
- What support do your people need in order to successfully provide this customer experience?
It’s not enough to simply assign people to roles and jobs. Ask some additional questions:
Do they have the necessary skills? Are they appropriately focused? Do they understand the importance of their role? Are they properly motivated to do their jobs well? Do they have the tools to perform their jobs?
The best companies are those that spend more time considering this question. So think this through thoroughly. Ensure that your people have the necessary training, motivation, compensation, structure, environment and tools so they’ll happily create the experience that your customers expect.
This is also the time to consider your current culture and what it will take to overcome any unwanted cultural momentum. The time and effort you spend on this question will be reflected in how well your strategic plan unfolds.
- How will you know you’re progressing? And how will you know you’ve succeeded?
Develop metrics that are directly tied to your strategy for every department and every person.
Some metrics, like customer satisfaction scores, are more obvious. Some, such as maximum server response times, may be less obvious. Some have an operational focus; others, a financial focus. But each one in some way helps your people understand when they’re moving towards the strategic objective or away from it.
Some managers find this aspect of strategic planning difficult. They find appropriate metrics difficult to define. Or they believe that staff will resist “being measured”.
Metrics may sometimes be difficult to define but with a little thought and creativity, appropriate ones can always be found. And staff love feedback – which is all that metrics are. They are simply the curbs on the road to your destination. They tell you when you’re starting to veer off course and help you get back on track.
- Are appropriate budgets in place?
Once you reach this question you’ll have more than enough detail to cost out your plans and create appropriate, bottom-up, financial projections.
As you create your financial models, re-visit question 5 to consider what metrics will help you understand the financial impact of your activities. For example, will you track production errors? Closing ratios? Customer returns? Metrics like these serve as early warning indicators that help to reduce or avoid significant financial costs.
If the financial models work, move to the final question!
- Does all of this support my strategy?
Review the plan you’ve created and ask over and over again, “Does this support my strategy?” Every activity, every person, every dollar must support your strategy in some way. Remove everything that fails this simple test from your plan.
At the end of this process you want to end up with a strategic plan that intensely focuses all of the company’s attention and resources on the singular goal of enchanting your customers in the unique way described by your strategy. Anything less risks diluting your collective efforts: your message gets a little fuzzier, your products aren’t quite as good, and your service looks more like your competitors.
Ew. Who’d want that?
Alex Glassey creates simple, integrated business frameworks for business owners and entrepreneurs. Test out his latest product F2F.live. Speak Face to Face with up to 1M people in livestreams, webinars, classrooms, meetings, and more!