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In the last issue, we addressed the challenge leaders face as they engage in strategic planning for their organizations. Our focus for that article was on how to make the strategic planning process more effective. This article addresses the next challenge with strategic planning: getting the change to take hold in the organization. We have seen strategic change efforts in organizations flounder because the goals, priorities, and initiatives begun during the planning process are not woven into the fabric of the organization. Employees interpret the change in strategy a number of ways, including something that doesn’t affect them, the “flavor of the month”, or something to wait out until things “get back to normal”. Below are some of our thoughts on ways to help move strategic planning to successful implementation:
Go beyond the Town Hall. Communication about strategic change generally starts with a big Town Hall meeting where the top leader explains the new direction. Unfortunately, for many organizations, that is where the communication ends. Leaders need to follow up town halls with localized communication, where the strategy can be translated into thee specific impact on their people. It also allows them to field more questions and start to paint a picture of what the change means.
Revisit the goals often. When we engage with a new organization for strategic planning, we usually ask about what happened with their last plan. Too often we find that at least one or more big goals resulted in no action. Worse, we have heard, “We haven’t looked at it since we finished it three years ago.” Strategic goals and priorities need to become part of the normal conversation among leaders, with appropriate accountability identified for each goal.
Cascade strategic goals down the ranks. Once strategic goals are announced and accountabilities are identified, leaders should revisit their groups’ goals to see where they need to be updated in light of the new strategic priorities. Failing to revise and update the goals will negate any momentum communicating about the goals started. These group goals drive regular performance evaluation and feedback, which are powerful guides for behavior.
Celebrate successes. Any strategic change has the potential to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt in an organization. Even those who buy into the strategy will still have reservations about making changes to how they do business. Using early successes in strategic change to bolster confidence and create additional energy keeps people moving forward.