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Article No.: 11-5

Article Title: It's May: Are You Executing Your Strategic Plan?

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SPHR, CEQC

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Perhaps it seems like just yesterday when you and your leadership team were brainstorming objectives and goals for the 2011-forward strategic plan.  I’m sure, like most leadership teams, you had high expectations and an eagerness to carry out all of the strategic planning elements effectively and on time.  So here we are:  May 1st.  Do you know which elements of the plan have been completed?  If some target dates have not been met, do you know what derailed your plan and how to get back on target?  If you answered no to these questions, here are a few suggestions to get back – and stay – on target.
For the 20 years that I’ve been helping organizations with strategic planning, I’ve discovered that there is a singular reason why strategic plans don’t get completed.  That reason is the employees of the organization have no idea how their job supports the company’s Mission, Vision, Core Values, or Strategic Objectives.  Perhaps the top leadership team discusses all of these elements of a strategic plan at their retreat; however, they don’t have a firm approach for ensuring the understanding and buy-in of individuals who will be responsible for executing the goals that are aligned with the Mission, Vision and Values.
A quick survey or a few focus groups can help you determine whether employees have a clear understanding of and are working towards executing organizational goals.  The survey could ask questions such as, “What are the top three priorities you have for this year and which strategic organizational objective do those priorities support?”  Another question is, “Which of the company’s Core Values are your three top priorities for the year aligned with?”  If the answers you get back from a survey of this nature are along the lines of “I have no idea” or “I’m not sure”, then it’s time for a pause in the daily rush to talk with employees from department to department about their priorities and which specific elements of the strategic plan those priorities support.  I’ve found that when people are clear on how what they’re doing on a day by day basis supports, for instance, the core value of innovation, they feel motivated to do their part to be creative in their approach to work.
If your leadership team didn’t develop a worksheet at the end of your strategic planning session that identified who is responsible for what objective and the success measures, here’s a sample worksheet that could help you get and stay on track:

Objective:  Enhance the current public perception of our organization.
Success Measures:  Increase program dollars raised by 10% by 12/31/11; Increase advertising dollars received by 15% by 12/31/11; Increase attendance at all programs by 5% in 2011; Increase membership by 10% in 2011.

6/30/11 Public Relations Department Department brainstorm about current perception
7/15/11 Public Relations Department Test brainstorming results with consumer survey
7/31/11 Executive Team Clarify message for the community that describes Mission, Vision and Core Values

If each team responsible for specific action steps meets periodically to discuss the status of goals and barriers that are preventing completion of those goals, it’s less likely that the end of the year will arrive without any real understanding of how the strategic planning process veered off course.  I recommend monthly department meetings for goal discussion, or quarterly if that’s simply not feasible.
The key, I’ve found, is accountability.  Each department and individuals within each department must be crystal clear on the impact their work has on the successful achievement of the company’s Mission, Vision and Business Imperatives.  Now is a great time to check in with employees to clarify that understanding.It's

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