Strategy 107: Execute your plan

Strategic plans are developed to align organizational resources to common goals after a specific period of time. Many organizations draw up the plans annually but unfortunately, in most cases, they end up in disappointments because of unfulfilled goals. So, what exactly is the reason behind failed strategic plans? Are the plans drawn up with unrealistic goals? Or could it be that the employees are not motivated enough to meet their respective goals?

To improve the outcome, all associated parties need to first understand that the strategic plan is just a plan. It is nothing more than a document with an outline of the priorities, resources, operations and prospective goals. Of course the only way you can effectively meet the goals is paying more attention to the implementation process. This is where most organizations fall out. Without a proper implementation process, even the best strategic plan will not be realized. Therefore, you need to invest more in the execution process if you want to realize your organizational goals.

Begin by educating all the employees about your strategic plan. After being approved by the executive members, it should be distributed to individual employees. In fact, regular employees should be more knowledgeable on the plan than their executive colleagues because they play a larger role in executing it. You should further break down the plan into specific roles for each position in your organization. This helps each employee should understand his/her role in fulfilling the organizational goals. It is only by doing this will the overall goals be collectively achieved.

A serious organization should also have a measurement system included in the implementation framework. The results should be measured occasionally and individual employees held accountable for them. This helps you keep track of the implementation process and understand who is doing his/her job and who is not. Accountability also keeps employees motivated and focused on the results instead of the repetitive tasks. Employees who only focus on the repetitive tasks lose sight of the expected results and gradually get worn out. This results in a less productive workforce that consequently fails to meet the organization strategic plan.

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Strategy 106: Keeping Scores

Keeping scores have played a major part of the human development since the beginning of time. Imagine sports without scores, what indicator of success will measure the winner against the looser? Business on the other hand needs to have a score card for another reason, to manage performance within the organisation.

The Balance Score Cards is a strategic planning and management system that links the strategic, operational and development plans with the actual work tasks carried out by the employees or their departments.

Despite the criticism it was facing from the education and consultants community. Balance Score Cards played a major role of the incentive based pay balancing the bonuses and incentive paid by the organization with the employee or department performance.

For this, the Balance Score Cards focuses on the vision, mission and strategy of the organization in the process of achieving the required performance targets, but divides the goals criteria into the following four. To do so, the smart objectives for each perspective are listed with measures and indicators as well as aims or targets and the initiative taken to achieve the required results.

Financial perspective depends on the goals and objectives as well as the measures and initiatives taken to reach the goals and objectives. This is a necessary aspect of the organization survival and growth that requires balancing all the time in front of the shareholders, banks and auditors.

Customer satisfactions score card focuses on achieving the required client satisfaction through measuring the customer perspective of the organization and its products or services.

Organization internal process aims for excellence at all time, supervising and measuring progress of departments, operations, task list in order of achieving the requires goals and objectives.

Learning and growth works on continuous improvement and increasing the product or service value, including both employees’ professional development and organization behavior and culture.

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Strategy 105: Indicators

Your car fuel gauge is built on simple indication components. A measurement unit showing a full tank level, three quarters of tank level, half tank level, one quarter of the tank and an empty tank. Then, they added a small light that turns on when you reach critical low level of fuel.

This indicator is the only information source to the driver about his fuel level. The only other indicator of no fuel is that the car won’t start of course. Nevertheless, like every other indicator within the dashboard set, such as the Speed Meter, RPM meter, Gear position, Seatbelt sign, etc. the drivers require these information to be able to drive his car from point A to B.

Similar in business, if you have completed your business plan, and laid a strategy then you have to be aware of where you are and where you want to be in the future. Business Performance Indicators also knows as Key Performance Indicators also helps you measure to learn and improve by providing you with more information required creating a stronger decision support system.

Depending on your business nature, identify the fields of operation and their indicators. Remember that you need to measure that field, so as many indicators as you require following the SMART technique. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and of course Time phased.

Simplest forms of indicators are the quantitative, presented by numbers such as financial. This is where you can always design your scores to be ten out of ten or one hundred out of one hundred. Other indicators however show the practicality of your company, business direction and control sufficiency.

Keep in mind, everything can be measured. Nor perfectly neither completely, but it will reduce uncertainty and provide you with information that will help you take informed decisions.

This basic tool is an essential performance feedback source to every manager. It provides the evidence required to support new strategies or strategies shifts as they link the strategic objectives to the actual work execution.

This is not an easy task. Many indicators will require time and thought on how they should be measured. While clients’ satisfactions and employee morals can be surveyed, there measurement “gauges” are depending on the strategic plan the planners’ perception of their levels.

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Strategy 104: Laying a strategic plan

“What?” That is the first question I get asked after finishing any business plan when I say let’s lay a strategy or a strategic plan. “What?” Again, “didn’t we just finish our plan? Is a strategy different than a business plan?” The answer is yes.

The strategic plan answers the question why although the business plan is merely the manual for how. It is the forward thinking tactics to the company’s reason for being, the attitude and force that enables the company to overcome any obstacle.

As per the latest online surveys, the average time spent in laying down the first strategic plan is 60 minutes. This requires some preparation to be done beforehand in order to achieve the best possible results within the given time frame.

First of all notify in advance all of the key people who guide your company about the objective of the meeting and update them with your agenda. If your company is small and comprises only of you and/or another partner, invite someone with good business judgment that you respect to the meeting.

Secondly, make sure you inform them that you will be seeking their input and ask them to be ready to contribute to the planning process sharing both facts and opinions.

Thirdly, select your atmosphere carefully, some managers will suggest the meeting or conference room, especially if it well equipped with a projector or a white board. Others would rather use some other setting where they are sure that the creativeness and contribution will be enforced and not be restricted.

Fourthly, watch your time. For this meeting to be concluded within the specified time frame, the time frame needs to be set in advance. Try to estimate and not guess the number of topics for each category and write the required time to discuss those points briefly next to it. If during the meeting you feel that you require more time to go into more details, note it and set another meeting for those notes.

Finally, use the right tools. There are different software’s that will help you with a click of a button transferring your brainstorming session points and bulletins into a time framed plan. Make sure you choose the one you are most comfortable with, reading the clients reviews and testimonials and trying out the Demo version first if possible.

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Strategy 103: Perfecting your plan

No Writer, Author, Poet is ever satisfied with his writings, every once in a while they will go back to their work and change a few things here and there. Not because it requires any changes, but since the individual is on a never ending learning path, his thoughts and opinions might either develop or change completely.

Business plans however change more than any other writings, the variables, risks, market intelligence and many other factors will always influence the business owner or manager to consider further options, calculate and anticipate different outcome.

The market intelligence operates on information traffic; the more information you can gather through research will accurate your plan and add to its potential day by day. This process can be started with the two basic but effective S.W.O.T. analysis and P.E.S.T. analysis.

Identifying the genuine Strengths of your organization and utilizing them to aim for the best Opportunities at the same time as working on your Weaknesses while keeping an eye on the Threats is the most excellent practice to develop your organization and business plan.

The Political stability and risk factor plays a very important role in your business stability and growth, starting from the government stability, taxation, employee and safety low, social welfare, trade regulation, and government ownership of industry and attitude to monopolies and competition policy are extremely important aspects to cover in your plan.

Economical analysis starts from the total GDP and GDP per head, growth rates and trends as well as inflation, interest rates, currency fluctuation, business cycle and finally energy, transport and communication costs.

Socially, always take into consideration the shifts in cultures and values, lifestyles, demographic changes and consumer behavior. Never forget, that those are your clients and you need to know them as much as you know yourself and/or your business.

Technological aspects fluctuate from business to business; nevertheless, we live in a period where technology is of the essence. Always observe government and industry focus on technological efforts, new patent and products, speed of change and adoption of new technologies and finally the impact of the internet.

Those are two basic elements if mastered will serve as the best tools of strategic planning.

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Strategy 102: Having a plan

One of the books that never leave my desk is the Art of War by Sun Tzu, the Chinese military general, strategist, tactician and mastermind of strategy. The book is available in many different forms; different writers influenced their experiences and opinions upon it by translating the Generals statements. I however favor the simple translation of the precise statements written by the General over 2,500 years ago.

The first chapter of the book refers to planning and has been titled differently through the several translators and authors, “Laying Plans” by Lionel Giles, in 1910, R.L. Wing in 1988 titled it “The Calculations”. R.D. Sawyer in 1996 titled it “Initial Estimations” but most recently Professor Chow-Hou Wee, Head of Strategy, Management and Organization at the Nanyang Business School in Singapore titled the first chapter “Detail Assessment and Planning”.

Business Planning is not a straightforward task, but it can be very interesting and rewarding to the business owner because of the amount of information and analysis process, especially for those with passion. During this process, and before starting with your Vision, Mission Statements, Goals and Objectives, look into yourself and recognize your strengths, business needs energy, and this energy comes from you passion.

While it is easy to describe a business plan as just a written document that describes your business from products, services, sales, production, management, structure, financial, etc. the value of the plan is based on the Calculations, Initial Estimations and Detail Assessment which makes a great business plan.

All business plans start with a Vision Statement, describing your perception of your business, keeping it brief, straightforward and memorable. Then followed by the Mission Statement, defining the purpose of your business venture and setting the foundation of your business strategy by outlining the reason of your business and how it will operate. This will outline what your business will do, how it will develop and grow, and most importantly how your business is unique and distinguished from others.

S.M.A.A.R.T. Planning of Goals and Objectives is one of the best contemporary planning techniques. Having Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Action-Oriented, Relevant or Result-Oriented and Time-Phased Goals and Objectives allows the Business Owner or Manager to see the movement of the business and translate the ideas from paper written to reality.

Finally, always keep in mind the 4WH, What are you doing? Who are you doing it for? Why are you doing it? When and How are you going to do it?

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Strategy 101: The beginning.

Strategy, a word commonly used among managers, executives, entrepreneurs, business owners and other top level employees of organizations. It is also usually proceeded or followed by other business terms such as strategic plan/planning, business development/Human Resources strategy, etc. However, have you wondered about the word “strategy”, what does it actually mean? Where does it come from? Why can’t we just use terms like plan or proposal or plot? Well, to answer those and many more questions we go back to the words’ origins and one of the first cavitations, the Greeks.

The word Strategy derives from the Greek word “Strategia”, and literally meant office, but not any office, office of general, command and/or generalship.

Why did this word from the ancient time refer to an office?! Well, the word did not refer to just any office; it referred to the general office, the office of the person in command, to the person who had choices to consider and decisions to make. For Example: While the different type of soldiers under the general command where trained on multiple skills, each had a profession from the swordsmen to archers to cavalry yet they only responded to few simple commands, charge, fire, halt, retreat, this also applied to both opposing parties. However, it’s the use of those commands to diverse battalions at different times for various reasons that decided the outcome of the battle, and each battle decided the outcome of the war.

Just like chess, the simplest form of warfare strategy on a black and white isometric board with the same number of pieces and the same abilities on both sides, yet, the outcome is determined by how those pieces are moved, when and for what purpose.

In both Business and in War, the same concept applies with business owner, manager and top executives or Military Admirals, Generals and Commanders since they are given the choices that they can make within their job descriptions, responsibilities and authorities to achieve certain goals and objectives.

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