Organizational Development Consultant and Leadership Coach

4 road tested ways to maximize the impact of your strategic plan

June 6, 2016

Most organizations put a lot of effort into creating their strategic plan.  And most organizations do a lot of things right. They gather their leaders together to agree their future direction.  They share their strategy with employees, and cascade goals to relevant departments and teams.   They even check back a few times a year to see how they are doing.

However few organizations truly maximize their efforts.  If your strategy doesn’t call for significant   changes to the way you do business, don’t worry about it.  But when your strategic plan calls for major shifts in the way you will work in the future, it is wise to set up an infrastructure to achieve your goals.   This infrastructure often includes these elements:

  1. SMART goals and a high level implementation plan
  2. One or more project teams with clear project charters
  3. An executive steering group
  4. Structured progress reviews

SMART goals and a high level implementation plan:

If your strategic plan doesn’t already include SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, and Time bound) goals, take the time to create them and gain support from your key stakeholders.

More on SMART goals:

Look for interdependencies and synergies between goals and determine if they can be clustered or sequenced.  Identify which departmental groups will need to be involved in determining the detailed plans required to achieve your SMART goals.  Consult with your departmental leaders to identify individuals to participate in cross-functional project teams that will conduct analysis, create detailed action plans and lead the implementation of each goal.

Project teams with clear project charters

Project teams consist of a diverse group of people called together to accomplish your goal/s. This usually involves analyzing the current situation, designing future ways of working, and identifying the steps required to get there. When managed well, project teams are a highly effective way to implement large scale changes to your business, and are a great way to offer high potential employees opportunities for growth.

More on project teams:

To ensure that expectations are clear, every project team should have a charter which outlines their deliverables, approach, and deadlines. Charters should be approved by your leadership team or by a hand-picked executive steering group.

More on project charters:

An executive steering groups:

An executive steering group consists of leaders who are called together to oversee the implementation of your strategic plan.  This group represents your major stakeholders, and has the authority to approve and oversee changes required to achieve your strategy.  They agree project charters, provide guidance and ‘air cover’ for project teams, lead periodic progress reviews, and are ultimately accountable for achieving the SMART goals outlined in your strategic plan.

More on executive steering groups:

Structured progress reviews:

Progress reviews are designed to track status towards achieving your SMART goals. This effort is often lead by your executive steering team, with participation from your project teams. During the progress reviews, project team leaders provide updates on their progress, highlight areas of concern, and bring proposals for decision. When done on a timely basis, progress reviews will help maintain momentum and ensure that results are achieved.

More on progress reviews:

When your strategic plan requires major changes to ‘business as usual’, having an infrastructure in place to design and implement those changes will greatly improve your chances of success. Please know that establishing an infrastructure to support the achievement of your strategic plan will require significant time and commitment.  But without this level of effort, strategic plans are at high risk for not meeting expectations.

The infrastructure I describe has been ‘road tested’ across industries and geographies, and its elements are often found within the most successful organizations.  I’ve used this infrastructure on countless occasions when supporting my clients in realizing their strategic plan.  Customization is common based on the specific situation facing each organization, but I’ve rarely seen an organization achieve transformational change without these elements in place.   I welcome your comments.


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The elements I describe above are contained in my book Mission Critical Meetings: 81 Practical Facilitation Techniques and is available on Amazon. Your feedback and reviews are most welcome.

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