Step 1: Define your strategic focus areas
Strategic focus areas represent big buckets of activity. Take your strategic plan and define these buckets. There should be at least three, but no more than 7.
Step 2: Create at least one measurable outcome for each focus area
Within each focus area, what does success look like? Define the characteristics of success what people will see, feel, think, do, if you are successful and then figure out how you will measure each characteristic. If you can, outline a simple, aggressive target for each characteristic. Success comes with multiple characteristics for each outcome, so don’t just focus on one number.
Step 3: Design Pathfinder Projects with milestones
To reach your outcome you will need at least one project. We call these “Pathfinder Projects” because, in truth, you don’t know what will work. Just like outcomes, though, you need to be crystal clear in defining a Pathfinder Project.
The best way to get clarity is by setting commonsense milestones. That way, you can tell if your project is getting off course, or worse yet, not working at all. Your milestones alert you to failure. When you fail early, you fail cheaply…and you learn.
Step 4: Draft a short Strategic Action Plan
Outcomes and projects provide two key components to your strategy, but you do not move a strategy into action without a Strategic Action Plan, continuously revised. If you do not know what you are going to do next week to advance your strategy, chances are your strategic plan is going nowhere. Your Strategic Action Plan outlines next steps and who is responsible for taking them.
Step 5: Commit to a 30 day review process
We learn what works by doing. Making adjustments along the way is critical to a successful strategy. A 30 day review process keeps you focused and enables you to make regular adjustments to your strategy. In today’s world, strategy is like software development. You need to commit to continuous revision.
Turning strategy into action
Strategy is just like creating a vision for the future. You set your strategic plans and get excited about the future. However, to make that vision a reality, you need to practice implementation and taking action.
Action taking is the missing link between strategy and success.
For many of us, taking action is harder than it initially sounds. It’s something that we need to work at, to practice, to break down into bite-sized pieces.
Break your strategy into bite-sized pieces
When you put together your strategic business plan, you may have set longer term goals (5, 10, 20-year goals), medium term goals (2-to-5-year goals) and short-term goals (any goal less than one year in the future).
While setting long term goals is an important part of your strategy and overall vision, you then need to take a step back and break these goals into smaller, more manageable timeframes. So, you might create quarterly or 90 day plans from your yearly goal, which should then be broken down into monthly, weekly, and potentially daily goals.
This is where creating a strategic action plan is important. By keeping yourself and your staff accountable on a daily or weekly basis, it is much easier to get traction and the results you desire.
Empower and engage your team
To take steps to really turn your strategy into action, you need to make sure that your team are all on board. Have you taken the time to share your current strategy with them? Whether you share your strategy through a group session, or one-on-one, you need to ensure that you clearly communicate your strategic goals. Have you explained how they will play a role in helping to achieve the success of your strategic plan? Have you shared your expectations and if there are KPIs to be reached, both as a business and individually? By taking the time to ensure that your whole team has buy in, you will have a much higher chance of reaching your goals.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communication is a key ingredient to help your business turn strategy into action. By ensuring that all management and staff communicate openly and effectively, this can lead to improved outcomes and the success of your strategies. Improving communication in your business also has the added potential to increase job satisfaction for those in your team.
By encouraging open communication throughout your business, your team will feel more valued and willing to share their thoughts and provide feedback.
Success = Strategy + action
Developing strategies within your business is a great place to start to build momentum and create a vision of success. However, the key to turning those strategies into success in your business is by taking action.
Taking consistent daily actions, encouraging and empowering your team to do the same, and ensuring accountability across your business will ensure that you have the best chance of watching your strategies turn into success.
Keep your team accountable
How often have you felt like you were making great traction towards your goal, to suddenly realise that others in your team weren’t pulling their weight? Or maybe your team was taking action, but you were the one pulling the chain and not contributing?
A key element in turning strategy into action is by ensuring there is accountability across the board. Accountability should be for owners, managers, employees – everyone that is part of your team.
A great way to ensure accountability, is to put a structure in place that keeps everyone accountable. Some options to support accountability in your team and workplace include:
- Using project management software (eg. Asana, Trello, Monday or similar)
- Structured weekly, fortnightly or monthly team meetings
- Graphs and charts to track KPIs visually
With any of the software or tools that you utilise to assist with accountability for your team, it is essential that someone in the team is responsible for reporting on the progress of each of the strategic priorities or actions.