Developing a strategic plan is one thing, but executing it is certainly another. According to the American Management Association, it’s estimated that 60% of business strategies are not successfully implemented. In fact, a survey by the Conference Board uncovered that chief executives are so concerned about strategy execution that they rated it as both their number one and number two most challenging issues.
When it comes to accounting firms, the concerns over executing strategy are no different. Here, we take a look at five key steps to overcome challenges on the road to executing your firm’s strategy.
1. Know your delivery date
The first step is a straightforward one. Knowing your delivery date enables you to work backwards and identify the key milestones you need to achieve and by when. This also gives you an opportunity to discuss your stakeholders’ needs and map out contingencies dependent upon certain milestones so you can make certain you deliver in a timely manner. You’ll also need to decide what happens if milestones are not met on time (discussed further in Step 4 below).
Make sure you allow yourself enough time for your team members and stakeholders to fully understand the timeline and don’t be afraid to adjust it along the way if needed.
2. Communicate regularly
It is estimated that 85% of executive teams spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy. Further, studies show that only 5% of the typical workforce understands the company’s strategy. Don’t be one of these statistics. The strategy of your firm should be no secret. Regular forms of communication are key to helping your staff understand the firm’s strategy and what their role is in executing it.
Remember, when it comes to strategy, over-communication is not a bad thing. Information should flow freely across disciplines and organizational boundaries, so include a strategy update in regular meetings and interweave it in day-to-day operations. If you’re strategic plan is only known behind closed doors, that’s probably where it will stay.
3. Motivate and support your team
One of the major keys to effectively executing a strategy is creating a culture that’s conducive to it. Staff members who have no link to the success or failure of a strategy will likely not work hard to achieve it, so empower your staff and encourage them to take ownership. Let them know they are vital to the success of the firm and give them incentives for achieving their goals.
Further, supporting staff with the training and resources they need to work towards executing a strategy is often overlooked. Unfortunately, 60% of organizations don’t link budgets to strategy . This is a huge barrier in terms of execution. Budget in advance to provide the training and resources your staff needs to properly achieve their objectives—and be supportive of them in the process.
4. Have a contingency plan
As the old adage goes, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. A contingency plan serves as a backup in case your original plan rolls off track due to unforeseen circumstances. It lessens the impacts of potential consequences and keeps your strategy alive during unexpectedly difficult periods. A contingency plan could involve developing alternate strategies or looking at possible scenarios and a related action plan. By having a backup plan, you’ll increase the likelihood that your strategy will be executed, even in the face of sudden challenges.
5. Debrief while it’s fresh
Proper strategic execution goes beyond your delivery date. The value of reflection is enormous. Sit down with your staff for a debrief session soon after you’ve fully executed your strategy and encourage them to share their perspectives and experiences, as well as their suggestions for future endeavors. The debriefing session is an opportunity to learn, grow and think bigger. While you should certainly acknowledge the execution of your strategic plan and celebrate the win, it’s important to discuss what worked and what didn’t in an effort to make your best efforts even better next time around.
By prioritizing these five steps, you’ll ensure that your strategic plans won’t just be files in a drawer, but will be effectively fulfilled. Along the way, you’ll be building a foundation of success for your firm for years to come.
i Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, “The Strategy-Focused Organization”
ii Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, “The Strategy-Focused Organization”
iii Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, “The Strategy-Focused Organization”