Implement Your Strategy Successfully

By Bill Birnbaum

Too many managers wait far too long before thinking about implementing their strategy. They finish their strategy sessions, and only then consider the question of implementation. This is a mistake. By waiting until after their strategy sessions, they miss earlier opportunities to encourage successful implementation. Don't follow their mistake. To encourage successful implementation of your strategy, you should take specific steps before, during and after your strategy sessions


Prior to your strategy sessions, you have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for successful strategy implementation. Here are your specific steps...

o Demonstrate Senior Management Commitment. If senior management isn't committed to the strategic planning process, neither will anyone else be. Senior managers must demonstrate their commitment, not just by word, but by deed as well. They must devote their own time to the planning process. And also demonstrate readiness to allocate the necessary resources to the resultant strategies.

o Select the "right" planning team members. The members of your planning team will come from the ranks of top management - likely your key functional managers. This brings the expertise necessary to develop the plan and also allows the necessary immediate strategic decisions. And just as important, it builds ownership among the key managers who will later direct implementation of the resultant strategies.

o Gather the "right" pre-planning information. Gather not just the obvious financial data. Also gather information about your customers and the benefits they seek in purchasing your products and services. Why they buy. Why they don't. And information about your competition. Their strengths and weaknesses. And how their offering compares to yours. Successful strategies follow from your management team's full appreciation of your enterprise and its relationship to its marketplace. You need to go well beyond the data. Gather information to build and maintain your planning team's knowledge and to encourage strategic thought.

o Solicit input from your employees. Get your employees involved in the planning process. Use a survey to "flush up" issues important to them. Their participation will build their commitment. Employees having the opportunity to participate in their company's strategic plan feel "a part" of that plan. They're committed to the success of the plan; and the successful implementation of the strategies within the plan. At his company's strategic planning retreat, the Vice- President of Marketing for one of our client companies remarked, "The managers in our marketing department are eager to see this plan. They've provided much of the initial input for this session, so they're looking forward to learning of, and implementing, the resultant strategies."


At your strategy sessions, you and your planning team will develop each of the elements of your strategic plan. During those sessions, you'll again find opportunities to encourage successful strategy implementation. Specific steps for doing so include...

o Encourage participation. Work toward rich, lively discussion on all issues. Solicit input from the more hesitant, and, if necessary, temper the more domineering individuals. To do so, you must be sure the facilitator of your sessions has not only expertise in the planning process, but also, skill in handling the planning team's interpersonal dynamics.

o Develop objectives which you can track with your current reporting system. You'll be busy enough implementing your plan; you don't want to pioneer a new reporting system at the same time. Yes, once in a while - particularly for an "outside the box" strategy - you'll need to "invent" some new measurement. But try to keep such inventions to a minimum.

o Develop a "balanced" list of objectives. Resist the tendency to set all of your objectives in the areas of finance and marketing. Make sure that at least one of your objectives is in the area of human resources. Far more of your employees care about human resource issues than about profit or sales volume. Having one or two human resource objectives, you can successfully respond when an employee asks "What's in it for me?"

o Develop strategies built on your company's strengths. If you're strong in marketing, you'll do best by promoting your way to success. If you're good at product development, you'd best invent your way to growth. Don't select a strategy just because it's currently popular or because it worked well for another firm. For a strategy to work well for you, it must be based on your company's strengths.

o Consider available resources. You'll need to estimate the resources required to implement each strategy. Be especially careful about over-committing those resources - particularly peoples' time. There's a fine line between challenge, which encourages implementation; and over-commitment, which discourages implementation. Be careful.

o Develop a built-in monitoring system. Have a key manager accept responsibility for implementing each strategy. That manager's name, along with a due date for completion, then becomes a part of your strategy statement. Including a name and a due date along with the strategy aids in monitoring the strategy's implementation. It also assures that a key manager "owns" each strategy.


Following development of your strategies, you'll have additional opportunities to encourage implementation...

o Communicate your strategy. Tell your employees of your strategy. Especially those employees who will help with your strategy's implementation. As you conclude your strategy sessions, ask this closing question of your planning team: "Now that we've developed our strategic plan, how should we communicate it to our employees?"

o Link your strategic plan to your operational plan. Ask each manager responsible for a specific strategy to take that strategy back to his or her department. And there, ask those employees who will implement the strategy to develop detailed tactics. Ask them to assign responsibility for each tactic; to set due dates; to project required resources. Peter Drucker wisely said, "Nothing happens until we reduce strategy to work." Implementing strategy is work. You'll do well to manage it as such.

o Monitor your progress quarterly. You've perhaps heard the saying, "If you don't measure it, it won't happen." This certainly applies to implementing strategy. With a quarterly monitoring system, you'll be well aware of your implementation progress and any associated problems. And during your quarterly monitoring meetings, you can consider your options for getting a wayward strategy back on track.

o Fine tune the process. Watch for opportunities to improve your planning process. This will help with implementation of your strategies in later years. At the third quarterly review of your strategic plan, take a little extra time to discuss the planning process. To look back on your strategy sessions. Ask, "What went well?" and "What didn't go so well?" and "What changes might we make to improve the process next time around?" Explore any and all suggestions to fine tune your planning process - so it brings continuous improvement to both your strategy development and your strategy implementation.

Bill Birnbaum, CMC, is President of Birnbaum Associates, business strategy consultants. He helps clients develop a shared strategic vision, and then turn that vision into a sound business strategy.

Bill has served on the board of directors for three high growth corporations. He's taught strategy courses for the American Management Association and authored "Strategic Thinking: A Four Piece Puzzle" (Douglas Mountain Publishing, 2004). His book is available through book stores and on-line book sellers.

His website contains informative articles on strategic thinking, on business strategy and on economic trends affecting business:

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Reengineering - Beginning The Process

By William Wood

What does re-engineering the business mean? When should it be done? Who or what dictates the need for change? All excellent questions and many feel they instinctively know the answers, but do they fully understand what this entails?

What Does Reengineering Mean?

Quoting Hammer and Chappy from the Harper Business Book collection, "Reengineering is the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical and contemporary measures of performance."

This is an excellent definition of reengineering. You can infer from this definition that you don't need to perform reengineering to make subtle changes to the business, improving only slightly your margins, quality or service. Subtle changes that result only in slight improvements of performance, such as picking n extra five orders per day, or increasing quality by reducing errors by five percent, can be done by minor modifications to the individual tasks within the process. This is more about continuous improvement of tasks within processes.

Reengineering is rethinking the business and processes from the ground up. You begin by planning a totally new approach to the business, starting with the vision of how the business should look and feel at the end of the journey. Examine all aspects and don't fall into the trap of taking the shortcut of "this is the way we do it today and it works for us. We don't need to change it!" That approach will doom the initiative from the start.

Forget what you do today. You need to think about what you would do If you were starting the business fresh today. What would your vision and plan look like? How would you approach building the business form the ground up, what issues would concern you, and who would help you build the successful business model?

When Should Reengineering Be Done?

As I alluded above, the business does not need to be reengineered if minor changes are sought. Reengineering is justified when: you find you are losing market share; your costs are significantly higher than your competitors; your customers (both internal and external) are less than satisfied with your service; your cash flow is drastically reduced; or other such serious problems occur, indicating the business is in trouble. In these circumstances reengineering will be appropriate and cost effective.

Conversely you may ask, "My business is the benchmark others strive to emulate, does it make sense to reengineer?" It can if the goal is to remain the benchmark. Any company can benefit from reengineering their processes.

The initiative can be as simple as a single process, or as complex as the entire business. Whatever the initiative is, it requires rethinking and questioning everything associated with it. There can be no taboos, no sacred cows and certainly no barriers in information flow.

Who Initiates the Idea of Change?

Anyone can initiate the idea of the need for change, however to be successful, the person leading the change needs to be someone with the clout to ensure it occurs and roadblocks are removed. Does this mean the CEO? Not necessarily, but they must agree to lend their support. The CEO is usually busy with other business functions such as money raising, communicating with community leaders, etc. The CEO should appoint the leader and ensure the corporation understands the person speaks for, and has the support, of the CEO.

Once the leader has been appointed, a meeting with the management team must be held to bring them on board. The CEO must call, attend and chair the meeting. It's imperative the CEO introduces the project and explains the reasons for it. There can be no doubt in anyone's mind that redesign is required and must succeed. This may be intimidating and threatening to some, so reasonable effort must be taken to assure everyone that no individual or department is being targeted for special attention; the plan is to make the business more efficient, competitive and add value to vendors and internal and external customers alike.
When the management has completed, the project team members must be assigned. The change leader will set up a meeting with the team members to explain the function of the team, their mandate and how the process will proceed. It will be up to the team members to determine the schedule of interviews and observations.

Copyright © 2007 William Wood

William Wood is a business consultant with 30 years experience. He has participated in numerous successful re-engineering projects. Mr. Wood founded Amberwood Consulting in 2000 to provide cost efficient services to small and medium sized businesses. His expertise is in Supply Chain, Logistics, Inventory Management and Warehouse Management. Customer Service, Honesty, Integrity, Quality and Sensitivity are his cornerstones.

Mr. Wood is also trained in multiple Development and Project Management Methodologies, allowing him to provide a wide range of services to the business community in North America.

Mr. Wood is also available to speak on the topic of Business Process Re engineering and Customer Service.

For further information, please visit

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