Take the temperature of your strategy implementation with 4 essential questions
The strategy has been laid down, the results have been communicated both internally and externally and the implementation has been transferred to execution with chosen managers, who immediately get to work. Everything is ready – what could go wrong?
The initiative has a growth spurt
6 months have gone by and the organization is still in the planning phase. This is due to the implementation having transformed into a program organization in order to accommodate the full strategic change. This involves new, altered processes, reorganization, new competencies, new information flow and accompanying IT-solutions. This is also the case an entire year into the process, as you have realized, that the many initiatives make for slower realization of benefits than initially expected. In other words: the strategy implementation stands still.
Only a fool does not fear implementation of strategies
Management is worried. This is because there is a real risk, that they cannot deliver in relation to market expectations. A deliberate decision is made to allocate the best employees, the best external advisors and consultants and place them in an independent program. This creates focus on the task and then the result can continuously be anchored in the organization, when the program is completed. We are now 2 years into the process and there is a strong atmosphere of desperation. Other projects have been delayed, employees are overworked, and understaffing is all-encompassing. Skilled employees are looking elsewhere or are stressed, and employee satisfaction is at an all-time low. Furthermore, the organization has lost market share and is no longer able to adapt to new demands. With the ambitious and long-awaited strategy implementation, the organization has thus ended up shooting itself in the foot.
Anticipate chaos with these 4 precautions
Should management shut down the program and focus on getting back on track, or should they go all-in on strategy and continue unfazed? The answer is none of the above. Although the case in question is fictional, it is based on observations across organizations that have carried out unsuitable strategy implementations. Instead of jumping right in, management should have asked themselves 4 essential questions:
- Is the strategy overambitious?
Consider, if the strategy takes into account the organization’s competencies and maturity in handling and delivering programs. If this is not the case, start by building competencies on all organizational levels, so you ensure realistic planning.
- Do you have the necessary capacity for change?
Far too often, the business is not prepared to receive the new project deliveries – neither competency- nor resource-wise. Something that also tends to happen, is what we call project-blockage: when several projects need to deliver for the same base unit simultaneously. Make sure to balance your plan with regard to the number of projects, that will reach the same employees, but also in relation to these employees’ capacity for change or the unit’s operating rhythm.
- Have you set clear goals?
It is not enough that the organization, processes and systems are in place, they also have to be applied effectively and anchored and adapted within the organization. This necessitates, that the vision for the strategy is communicated clearly, so the employees can see themselves in it. Change management also has to play a constant role throughout the entire program, especially around commissioning and anchoring of new working procedures.
- Are you being (completely) honest with yourselves?
An extremely skilled and effective operational organization is not necessarily capable of being a part of the completion-regime of programs or implementation and change activities. Ask yourselves, if your management has adequate insight into their own strengths and possible weaknesses – including the time and energy needed to be a visible leader of changes during the whole implementation process. If you acknowledge, that you need competence development, then start implementing it into the involved units.
Gain competencies with a course
Organizations, that succeed with carrying out strategic initiatives in the form of bigger projects or programs, have had use for principles or inspiration from Best Practices such as:
Change Management Foundation: Successful organizational implementation of changes
Managing Successful Programmes®: Approaches and tools for handling programs
Managing Benefits Foundation E-learning: Approaches and tools for building realistic business cases and tools for the subsequent assessment and realization.