Turning business strategy into reality

Taking the planning process full circle is a huge challenge for many organisations, so why are so many struggling to align strategy with the execution of business goals?

You’ve spent hours brainstorming, strategising and tweaking your business plan, but when it comes to executing the strategy you’re overcome with analysis paralysis.  Many will agree that they spend so much energy getting the strategy right, but months down the track are left wondering whether it’s ever been fully executed, or whether it’s been done properly. The outputs don’t match up to the effort we put into the planning, and it’s disappointing to see that the vision isn’t ever properly realised.

We see this situation often in dealing with our customers, and PWC’s data from its recent survey of Australian organisations supports the idea that taking the planning process full circle is a challenge many face. It shows that companies are underestimating what is known as the ‘alignment challenge’, which is the ability to align an organisation’s strategy with the execution of business goals. Of interest, 81 per cent of those surveyed believed their business had the right strategy, purpose, vision and ambition to reach their potential, however, only 46 per cent thought their company had put in place tactics that would achieve this in an effective way.

It’s like asking a travel agent to plan a ‘fun and exciting holiday’, but not offering them any further important information, like where and when you’d like to go. You're bound to end up somewhere unexpected that doesn't live up to your vision, and you leave feeling unsatisfied with your investment of time and money.

This is where it’s important to recognise that your team are at the core of these tactics, and they will be responsible for executing your strategy. When they’re asked to work with teams in different offices, or have to deal with information silos in the company, it’s difficult for them to have perspective on where they’re headed in relation to the business’s vision. Engaging them in the process through social collaboration practices will allow them to connect business goals to actual results.

Social collaboration solutions are linking departments, teleworkers and staff on the field to allow them to be more productive and engaged. In Mindjet’s recent survey of Australian businesses, we found that almost 40 per cent of respondents were required to work with external teams on projects, meaning that many need a concrete online process that provides the support required for working together effectively. These social collaboration tools are helping organisations to connect planning and execution through communicating updates, project changes and responsibilities in real time and encouraging staff to work more closely together to reach common goals.

The question now is: how do you make sure the strategy you’ve spent so much time developing is as close to being executed properly possible? Here are a few suggestions for attaching processes to the use of social collaboration tools in order for your team to work more productively.

Appoint someone to own and drive the process

Most projects in an office environment won’t get very far if there isn’t someone passionate driving them. Give responsibility to a team member who understands the best tools to use to manage the process, and has a vision of how they can fit into the company’s working style.

Give staff guidelines to work with. If you’ve ever opened an IKEA package that’s missing the instruction manual, you will know how many staff members feel when given a large project to work on with no guidelines on beginning the process. If staff are given some insight into how frequently they need to be updating their team and what kind of activity to communicate, this will mean a simple transition with immediately visible results.

Build accountability among your team

We all struggle with making our plans actionable, but if tasks are assigned as soon as the plan is complete there will be no confusion about the direction of the strategy. All team members will be able to view responsibilities, timelines and the full scope of the plan. Employees will be motivated to meet these targets to avoid falling behind other team members and letting the project down. Peer liability is a powerful tool, so working out how to harness the ‘power of the peer’ will drive results.

Focus on departments where you will see quick results

Don’t try to apply a one size fits all approach by implementing one procedure across the entire organisation. Begin with the teams who will be receptive to these tools and benefit from working in this way. Of course as goals blend and roles begin to crossover, there can be a need to connect previously separate departments to work together – look at the recent debate around improving communication between marketing and IT departments for example.  In this case there’s a need to cut down confusion and time wasted getting up to speed. Using the right tools across these teams to communicate effectively will mean the project can stay on track from the start.

While these are some straightforward solutions to get you on the right track, remember that it’s important to think about how you will cement these processes for the long term. Carefully considering what social collaboration tools you implement, and how they are introduced, will allow you to adapt to new plans and strategies as the business evolves. Applying processes that enable your team to embrace social collaboration in a flexible way will change the organisation into one that doesn’t just plan, but plans to succeed.

Daniel Sims is Marketing Manager at Mindjet, a provider of collaboration software.

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