Nobody likes to see their strategy fail. And yet, many do. Why? It could be the cruel hand of fate, but it’s more likely down to execution. You’ve probably got a great strategy, but it needs to be well-implemented to succeed. In this article, you’ll learn how you can get your strategy off the ground, overcome the challenges to strategy implementation – and turn your vision into a reality.
You’ve got high hopes for your new strategy. You’ve done the work. But then – nothing. Or perhaps your strategy is finally in motion, but it’s not working out as you expected.
If this seems familiar, you’re not alone. A study by the Project Management Institute found that 61 percent of executives thought their companies struggled to bridge the gap between planning and action. A strategy is nothing without proper implementation. However, bringing a strategy to life comes with its own set of challenges. We’ll dive into these later. First, it’s important to understand what strategy implementation is, and why getting it right matters.
What Is Strategy Implementation – And Why Is It Important?
A strategy is a way you want to do something. Most strategies involve 5 clear steps:
- Clarify your vision. What do we want to do?
- Collect and analyze information. What will this achieve?
- Devise a strategy. How are we going to do it?
- Execute your strategy. Let’s get it done!
- Evaluate and control. How is it going?
Strategy implementation is the process of achieving your goals and objectives.
The Benefits of Good Strategy Implementation.
Your strategy has to be “good” for it to work. This means it must be focused, informed and realistic. However, strategy implementation is just as important as strategy development, and it needs to be planned. A solid strategy implementation plan helps you to:
- Give purpose to the work your team is doing.
- Deliver on your promises – on time and on budget.
- Reach your business goals.
On the flip side, getting it wrong can have negative consequences. A strategy without a plan can lead to:
- Missed deadlines.
- Low team morale.
- A loss of trust from your stakeholders.
- Missed targets and lost revenue.
You can stay out of the woods by understanding why strategy implementation so often fails.
Why Does Strategy Implementation Fail?
1. Resistance to Change
The problem. Your company culture can impact how your strategy is implemented. A report by McKinsey reveals that “companies with failed transformation programs identify employee resistance or management behavior as the major barrier (72%) to success”. Without your team on side, your strategy won’t see the light of day.
The solution. Be proactive. Share articles and case studies that support your strategy. Social proof is a great way to convince stakeholders to try something new. Think of them as your consumers – they need to be sold to – and your strategy as the product.
2. Ineffective Alignment
The problem: Strategies are often misaligned. A successful strategy helps you achieve your goals, but it has to fit in with your company goals too. If your strategy doesn’t make sense for your business, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Misalignment can also happen if you don’t take your team’s resources, structure and working style into account. If your expectations are unrealistic, it will be hard to get your team on side.
The solution. Talk. Observe how teams work, ask questions, and be open to feedback. This helps you identify potential problems and identify where you need support.
The problem: Information-overload. Corporate jargon. A lack of clarity. All will sabotage your strategy. If you can’t describe your strategy clearly, it isn’t focused enough. Confusion around the “what, why and how” makes it hard to make a case for its value. During implementation, a loss of momentum in the early stages makes it harder to roll out your strategy.
The solution: Follow the KISS principle. If your strategy is easy to understand, your colleagues are more likely to stick to it.
4. Not Having the Right Tools or Systems
The problem: You will need tools (like project management and documentation software) to turn your vision into reality… and it’s a minefield. Choosing the right tools can make or break the strategy implementation process.
A tool which is too complex for your team spells disaster. A tool that is too simple, likewise. A steep learning curve can cost you weeks – and even months – when implementing your strategy. A lack of features might leave you searching for workarounds. Choose wisely.
The solution: Get to know exactly how tools will be used, and by who. Make a list of what you need from your tools. This will come in handy when you review your current software and research additional or alternative tools.
Discover how NGO CREA Mont-Blanc implemented a digital transformation strategy using MeisterTask here.
Something To Consider: The Cascade Model
Thinking about implementation at the planning stage lays the groundwork for success. If your organization supports agile working, you could use the Cascade strategic planning model. In this model, the vision, values and strategic focus areas are set at an organizational level. The vision and values inform the focus areas, the focus areas inform the objectives, and the objectives inform the projects and KPIS.
With the Cascade model, you can empower your mid-level managers to define projects and KPIs in line with the larger business strategy. The strategic framework provides your teams with a shared language to talk about strategy. This helps them to understand the impact and contribute to development.
5 Steps to Successful Strategy Implementation
Whether or not you use the Cascade Model, there are several key checkpoints on the road to successful strategy implementation.
1. Create a Solid Strategy Document.
Even if you’re pitching your strategy face-to-face, a strategy document is essential. It will help you to share your strategy implementation framework with the management board. This document will be a single source of truth that can be revisited at any time. Your strategy document should include:
- Goals and objectives. What do you want to achieve? How are you going to get there?
- A timeline. What are you going to do, when?.
- Required resources. What do you need to make it happen.
Discover how we use use MeisterNote for strategy and project documentation, internal communication and more in this blog post.
What Tools Should You Use?
If you don’t have one, you need an online documentation tool. Static documents like PDFs and Excel sheets don’t provide the flexibility you need to work quickly and collaboratively.
- Local hosting means that communication normally occurs by email. This takes time and makes it easy for information to get lost. Re-uploading to shared servers often results in duplicates.
- There is usually one document owner who needs to make changes. This is a bottleneck that can slow you down.
Online documentation tools make the creating, editing and sharing of strategy documents easier. Information is centralized and accessible, so everyone is on the same page.
Creating a strategy document with MeisterNote can save you time and effort.
- You can share it with everyone who needs it in a couple of clicks.
- Any changes you make are reflected in real-time: no need to update duplicates or repeat information.
- Your team can add questions or feedback via comments, and you’ll be notified instantly.
- Storing information in one place makes the strategy implementation process much smoother.
2. Get Your Team Involved.
Productive and collaborative teamwork is essential for strategy implementation. You’ll need:
- An action plan. This outlines the steps necessary to achieve a goal or set of goals.
- Defined roles and responsibilities. This ensures everyone knows what they need to do, when.
- Clear workflows. This helps everyone to understand how the steps within a process are connected.
What Tools Should You Use?
Use a RACI matrix to clarify each team member’s roles and responsibilities. This highlights any responsibility gaps and ensures that no responsibilities overlap. There are tools and templates to help you do this. If you create your RACI template in Excel, export as a PDF, or save it as an image, you can embed it into the strategy document you created in MeisterNote.
For processes, consider visual aids like flowcharts. Flowcharts can make workflows easier to understand. Information is often easier to digest in a visual format – so use this to your advantage. Display processes visually wherever possible to help your team understand your strategy.
3. Communicate Your Strategy.
Your strategy is approved and you have a framework for success. Now you need to get people on board. A kick off meeting is an opportunity to:
- Share your strategy document and action plan.
- Get everyone aligned on the strategy.
- Motivate your team to engage with the strategy.
- Answer questions and address any concerns.
Clear communication in the strategy implementation process is vital to its success. Create a shared document that acts as a company-wide progress report. Each team should add an update on how their part of the project is going (at Meister, we do this bi-weekly).
What Tools Should You Use?
You guessed it – an online documentation tool!
You can structure your progress report document in a way which works best for you. With MeisterNote’s flexible editing options, you can include lists, info boxes, images and more. A clean, structured document is more engaging and easier to follow – your team gets the information they need and can act instantly.
Ask everyone to read and contribute to the document before the kick-off and any other meetings. This can reduce in-person meetings and save you time. To make meetings more focused, gather questions from your team in MeisterNote. When comments and open questions are visible, you get less repetition and a faster process for everyone.
4. Create Tasks.
Executing your strategy is the most challenging part of the process. How do you make sure everything you’ve talked about gets done? The key: integration between projects and documentation.
To execute your strategy, you need to break it down into manageable projects with actionable steps (tasks). To do this, you will need to choose which project management methodology is the best fit for you.
What Tools Should You Use?
MeisterTask integrates with MeisterNote to keep projects and documentation in the same place. This helps you transition between your strategy – where the plan is talked about – to the project – where the work gets done. You can:
- Create new tasks in MeisterTask directly from your strategy document.
- Assign blocks of text to a team member as a task in MeisterTask.
- Link to tasks from your documentation and follow task progress in either tool.
This means you can:
- Assign tasks during meetings. As soon as an action point is identified, you can create a task for it. This keeps the strategy implementation process moving quickly.
- Review task progress without leaving your note. This means less time switching between tools so you can maintain your focus.
- Add context to your documentation. To-dos are visible in your notes for everyone who has access. More clarity means better collaboration and fewer mistakes.
With your documentation and tasks connected, you can make sure everything you’ve said you’ll do gets done. There are fewer opportunities for tasks to slip through the net, and monitoring task progress is easy.
5. Stay in Control.
Your strategy will have defined KPIs. These help you understand how your strategy is performing, and to make adjustments to fit what you want to achieve. Having data to prove the success of your strategy is useful when you want to expand the rollout or pitch for more budget.
If you’re not seeing the results you were hoping for, your strategy may need refining. However, it’s possible the problem lies in the execution. Ask “what is working well with the process?” and “where are the blockers or bottlenecks?”. Once you know the answers, you can make improvements.
Remember, your strategy is a living thing – it will probably never be perfect. Learning, adapting and refining your strategy is necessary to reach your goals.
What Tools Should You Use?
There are a bunch of tools for measuring performance. However, the tools you use to track your KPIs will depend on what those KPIs are. The important thing is to have your data tracking set up correctly – which is often easier said than done.
The insights you gain might mean you need to update your strategy document and adjust the action plan. As you’ve used a collaborative document for this, updating your team will be easy. As soon as you make the changes, everyone will have access to the latest information.
See Your Strategy Soar.
There is no exact science to strategy implementation. Getting it right depends on what works for your organization. However, there are steps you can take to give your strategy the best chance of success:
- Planning ahead.
- Providing structure.
- Communicating transparently.
- Embracing collaboration.
When these things are covered, it’s easier to get your team on board. With everyone working towards the same goal, your strategy can soar with the best of them.
What Is Strategy Implementation?
Strategy implementation is the process of making the things you said you would do actually happen. It involves defining and taking steps to achieve your goals and objectives. Strategy implementation is just as important as strategy development.
What Are the Challenges to Implementing a Strategy?
You can struggle to implement your strategy if your teams within your organization are resistant to change. Problems can also arise if you are unable to clearly communicate your strategy to your team. Poor-alignment with company goals or the day-to-day work of your teams can cause your strategy to fail, as can having the wrong tools – or a lack of tools – to get the job done.
Which Tools Do I Need To Implement a Strategy?
The tools you need to implement your strategy depend on what you want to achieve, and how. That said, a collaborative documentation tool such as MeisterNote will be helpful at every stage in the process. You will also need a task management tool to execute your tasks and projects, and software to monitor the performance of your strategy.