This is the eighth in a series of articles about how to get more out of your strategic planning process.
8. Execute Better
Execution is the Achilles' heel of strategic planning. Far too often, we create elegant, wonderful strategies that fall short of our expectations simply because of lackluster execution. There may be many reasons for this, but there are two very common reasons which can be mitigated by proper strategic planning processes.
The first common reason execution becomes an obstacle is that we always want to commit to more than we can actually accomplish. In terms of Simplified Strategic Planning, this amounts to setting more strategic objectives than your team can realistically implement. There are two basic rules of thumb I use for matching our commitments to our capacity. The first is an absolute number - no team will be effective implementing more than 10 strategic objectives. Sure, you may get more than 10 objectives done, but with real strategic objectives, you will certainly be taxing every part of your organization to do so. And why not? Because you will eliminate your ability to handle unforeseen events, and cripple your organization's ability to take advantage of serendipitous opportunities. The second rule of thumb is that you generally want as many objectives as you have effective implementation leaders in your organization. While it's possible for an implementation leader to do a great job on two or even three strategic objectives, you will be reducing his or her ability to perform in any other function in your organization. You also will lose a certain amount of focus, which is usually going to reduce effectiveness. Please note that this rule of thumb refers to "effective implementation leaders" - not "strategic planning team members". While we like to assume that all of the members of our strategic planning team will be effective implementation leaders, this is often not the case.
The second common reason execution stumbles is that we often do a poor job of monitoring our progress on implementation. Most strategic plans are poorly designed for monitoring - there are few, if any, measuable milestones and no built-in process for routine monitoring. In addition, we have a tendency to put the monitoring of strategy implementation at the bottom of our priority list, because it is seldom urgent. As we've pointed out so many times in our strategic planning books and strategic planning seminars, you must commit to monthly monitoring of your progress if you want good execution on your plans.
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