In this article series, we’ve been looking at the strategic process and going ‘back to basics’ on the different steps involved in creating and delivering a successful organisational strategy. After defining, researching and planning, we now have a thorough basis on which we can move towards actual implementation.
Strategy implementation is delivered through a series of strategic initiatives. These are projects or tasks that are designed to minimise or eliminate the gap between current performance and the full delivery of a strategic initiative. When used as part of the balanced scorecard approach, the initiative becomes the ‘engine’ that powers the strategy’s delivery.
Each strategic initiative will support a strategic objective. Remember, the strategic objective is an action statement that describes the strategic intent of a continuous improvement. To ensure that accountability and engagement are achieved at all levels throughout the organisation, ownership of strategic initiatives – and their performance measures or KPIs – will be assigned to relevant staff and documented in the formal paperwork of the strategic management process. Once initiatives are delegated to functional leads, those leads will create local-level plans as necessary to manage the detail of delivery and to achieve the necessary targets. Find out more about strategic initiatives within the context of the Balanced Scorecard.
The importance of strategic initiatives
Ultimately, it is the implementation phase of the strategy that will generate the change. Yes, the preparatory work is essential to ensure the success of the strategy overall, but none of the objectives, targets and measures will matter unless there are activities implemented that drive forward the intended change. Each strategic initiative will likely have a significant impact on the organisation and can be long or short-term in nature. To support the strategic process, every initiative must support at least one strategic objective.
Defining strategic initiatives
Strategic initiatives are typically crafted during the strategy workshop phase of the balanced scorecard methodology. The list of initiatives can incorporate existing initiatives that are still relevant to the new strategy. To complete their definition, business leaders must:
1. Create a list of initiatives and their associated owners
2. Craft a set of criteria for selection
3. Identify and prioritise each initiative
4. Define, formally, each prioritised initiative
5. Identify budget for each prioritised initiative and ensure it is implemented and managed, within the ongoing process of evaluation and control
Linking implementation to performance
Many organisations now link strategic initiative implementation to internal performance management activities. This ensures that every employee within the organisation can clearly see how their own planned annual objectives support the ultimate strategy. It also means that the measures and targets that every employee is assessed against – often for bonus or incentive purposes – are also wholly in line with what the strategy is trying to achieve. By linking performance, reward and recognition to strategic implementation, the organisation travels in a single, coherent direction and employees are naturally engaged with the strategy, rather than seeing it as somehow being separate to their own objectives and work.
Implementation and communication
At this stage of implementation, a comprehensive internal communications plan is also required to ensure that every employee and stakeholder fully understands the strategy and the process elements. From the vision and mission that drive values and culture, through to the targets that individual teams will be charged with achieving in the period ahead, this communication must be delivered in a comprehensive, transparent, thorough and interactive way, allowing employees to input and respond as part of a feedback loop. (Many organisations involve front-line staff and functional leads at different levels of the hierarchy, to become involved in strategy setting or to act as strategy champions, support this process of engagement and facilitate communication.) Done well, internal communication will help to bring the strategy to life, to shape the ‘story’ of the strategy and to ensure that it remains a living, breathing ‘thing’ within the organisation, rather than ‘just another project’ that fails to capture the energy, enthusiasm and motivation of the very people who will ultimately deliver the necessary changes.
So now we have looked at what is needed for the implementation stage – in the next blog we will focus on evaluation and control as the fifth step in the process. In the meantime, remember that you can download your free strategy guide.