The job of leading a project is a lot like going on a trip towards a planned destination. Let’s say you’re planning a weekend trip, first you’d need to make some arrangements, right? You’d first decide on a destination, how you’ll travel and map out your journey. Then, you’ll check weather conditions, estimate how long it’ll take and if you’ll make any stops along the way.
Once you have your plan, you’ll then try to account for unexpected consequences such as construction, longer lines at security checkpoints, and anything that might delay you in your travel. Once you reach your destination, then you’ve successfully executed every step of your travel plan.
In our free Planning for Success workshop discussion, we overcome the obstacle that prevents you from being able to successfully plan and take action. We also provide a template for mapping out your journey on a project or with your career. In this article today, we’ll look a little closer at the idea of strategic execution. What you can do before taking action, to ensure that your plans are completed.
What is strategic execution?
Strategic execution is a process, that allows you to have a structured approach to clarifying, communicating, implementing and managing a strategy. The goal of the entire process is to make sure that you always know where you are, so that you can determine where you need to go. In other words, it gives you a baseline to work from on any project or initiative.
To understand exactly what’s involved, and how to strategically execute your projects and tasks, let’s go through the three steps involved for setting the stage for taking action.
1. Strategic Planning
The journey of any successful strategic execution process begins with planning. It’s no secret that planning is the most important part of any project or initiative. However, many organizations and professionals fail to properly complete this step.
This component of the process needs to consider all issues big and small. The steps the company needs to take to get to its goals. The framework that will be used to keep everyone on track. The structure for reporting and the frequency of any strategy meetings.
If you look at the history of business, you’ll find many examples of corporations that experienced immense growth. Only to stall and eventually fail because they followed strategies built on the wrong assumptions. Or, they simply operated without full clarity on each step of their plans. These are examples of what happens when planning is missing from strategic execution.
The goal of successful planning in your strategic execution is to create a strategy that clearly defines your goals. While staying away from ambiguous or misaligned ones. If you’re planning for your personal life or career, you still need to plan ahead, but just in a different way.
For example, let’s say you’d like to volunteer more this year. This means you’ll have to schedule the days and hours you’d like to donate. Decide the type of volunteer work that you’re interested in, and also account for the travel time to and from the volunteer location.
You’ll need to plan this in advance to make sure it doesn’t clash with your current responsibilities or work-life balance. The last thing you want, is to create a scenario where you’re left feeling overwhelmed and have to break your commitment.
2. Clear Goal Setting
This part of your strategic execution comes directly from planning. Not having clear goals will make your execution not go as smoothly as it should. Whether you’re aiming for an improvement in your work, or you’re a business striving for a successful expansion, your goals will need to be clearly set.
For example, your goal may be something as simple as learning a new language. Either because you want to give yourself a competitive edge in career choices, or just come to appreciate cultural diversity. Whatever the reason, set a goal to work towards. Once that goal has been established then you can get to work achieving it, which is all in execution.
The same applies to business. Setting clear goals helps you organize your thoughts about what you want to achieve, and allows your team to come up with concrete steps that will help you get there. When you’re clear on where you’re going, it’s a lot easier to make things happen. Having set goals is also motivating as it gives you a finish line to work towards and you can celebrate your achievements when you’ve reached it.
When we’re talking about goals, personal or otherwise, these should support your overall strategy. One thing to keep in mind when setting goals for your team, is that the goals should be tangible. Meaning that the person your delegating to, should know everything involved with completing that goal. By doing this, everyone involved will have a sense of progression as they move along with the overall plan.
If you’re practicing focused leadership, this stage of your strategic execution will help you weed out issues. Such as whether your plan is realistic in regards to resources. It helps you determine if you have the right people and skills within your team to execute the plan. At the same time, it gives an idea of how well your team members understand the company’s overall mission.
When you do this right, your goals will become more than just your targets. They become the basis for your ongoing tracking, reporting and performance management. You’ll come to find that each one that is properly set becomes a stepping stone to the next stage of your project. Now, you will face conflicts and challenges along the way that will test your current resources. So, you’ll want to take the necessary steps to put an all-star team in place that can make sure each action is properly executed.
The way businesses communicate and involve employees the planning and goal setting parts of strategic execution, really determines how well each step of the plan is implemented. Most employees don’t fully understand their roles when different initiatives are introduced. So when making changes within your organization, you’ll want to focus on clear communication. The lack of an effective communication strategy can not only lower motivation, but also spark a resistance to change.
This is recursive area of the process because you’ll apply the strategic execution process to improve your communication with the team. To make sure that all departments stay in tune with the big picture, you’ll plan how you’ll communicate with the team and how frequently. You’ll set goals for every meeting and message, and you’ll communicate these goals. Ensuring that your meetings are productive and communications clearly understood.
This component of the process needs to go both ways in the sense that you should be getting feedback about your strategic execution. Not only in the beginning, but as it unfolds and each goal is completed.
If you don’t quite know where to start, there are a few different ways you can facilitate this part of the process. For instance, regular effective meetings are one way to go. You can either have daily huddles between operational teams to make sure that everyone’s on the same page and is updated. You can also have executive meetings between management team members to regularly asses the progress of the implementation.
Either way, the emphasis is on effective meetings. Interestingly enough, meetings can quickly disclose whether your organization has a strong culture for strategic execution. For example, if your meetings usually consist of a long presentation while everyone else sits quietly, not asking questions, then you have a problem. This usually means that you don’t have a culture that allows for the open communication needed for a successful strategic execution of your plans.
On the other hand, if your meetings are short and to the point with active participation by everyone present, with questions being asked. This shows that you have a culture that encourages a common understanding. Everyone on your team knows they’re working on the same goals and are willing.
Before taking action on any project or initiative within your organization, you’ll want to make sure that all your ducks are in a row. Much like planning every step of a vacation, you’ll want to take the same three steps to make sure that every step of the journey of completing your project is properly mapped. The strategic execution process allows you to make sure that each step of your project or expansion is accounted for.
You’ll need to have an understanding of how to plan strategically, which is the most important part of the process. You’ll then practice focused leadership to set clear goals and communicate each step of the way. Be prepared to receive feedback, because the only way you can strategically execute on your projects is if everyone involved understands the mission and can give feedback to help with the completion of each step.
To gain a better understanding on how to plan strategically for success and map out each step of your journey before applying this strategic execution process, click here to sign up for a free Planning for Success growth workshop.