Most strategic plans fail during execution, when the excitement and energy of planning and launch have faded away. Establishing sustained attention for strategic efforts is just like creating a new habit, which according to James Clear’s noted book on forming new habits, takes 66 days. During this vulnerable time it is critical to put careful and intentional effort toward both fanning the fire and gathering the fuel to keep it burning. Below are some key things we’ve leaned over the years, that if practiced, go a long way to keep the strategic fire alive.
If it isn’t present, it doesn’t exist.
The ideas revealed during your strategic planning process, which might include your vision, values and other “true north” tenets, are often new to you and your team. Like learning a new language, you need to use it constantly until you are thinking with it naturally rather than having to translate as you go. It all starts with keeping these new ideas with you at all times. Below are four simple ways to start:
- Put the key ideas from your strategy development in the front of your favorite notebook so you see them every time you open it
- Write them on post-it-notes and stick them places you will stumble across them throughout the day
- Create strategy posters that can hang in offices and meeting rooms
- Refer to them whenever there is a new idea to evaluate
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Make it part of things you already do.
A close cousin to the point above, this is all about making sure your strategy becomes a part of everyday activities, especially those that that address aspects of businesses performance. In fact, it’s best if you can make your strategic plan the headline and relate everything else you discuss to it. Some ideas include:
- Whatever business meetings you have regularly, no matter how small, make time to reference the strategic plan
- During business development meetings, especially go-no-go meetings, use your strategy as a filter for which clients you pursue
- If your strategic plan includes things like vision, values, and purpose, make sure you use those ideas as part of employee onboarding, reviews, and workforce development
Set yourself up for some easy wins.
Strategic plans can be overwhelming. But if you break them down you will likely find some simple things you can do that will return big results. Think of business activities, particularly ones that relate to your customer journey or employee engagement that could benefit from some strategy-informed tweaks. Measure results and celebrate everything—even if it is just the fact that you tried something new.
- Is there a way you can enhance new client meetings, perhaps by asking new questions or including different team members?
- When you look at your proposals, is there a way to change your business description or how you articulate the engagement to distinguish you from competitors?
- Could job descriptions or candidate interviews be enhanced by the ideas in your strategic plan?
Not sure where your strategy is headed?
This guide takes you through a set of principles and practices designed to help leaders and their organizations create strategies that move them toward the future they want to see.Read the guide
Make celebrating a habit
Most of our clients would openly admit that historically they’ve done a poor job of celebrating progress. And in the same breath would admit that celebrating is essential to keeping their teams energized. Why doesn’t celebration happen? Biggest reason given: Just too busy. If your strategic plan is vital to the future of your organization, then you HAVE to make celebrating progress non-negotiable.
- Common things to celebrate include: milestones – visible events, like the launch of a website or brand; extraordinary efforts – people going out of their way to live up to the ideas in the strategy; client wins – new business that came as a result of implementing ideas in your strategy
- When was the last time your whole company was together in one place? A well-designed company offsite can be an investment that makes a lasting and productive impression for months
- Design your celebrations using your strategy as inspiration. Make them unique to your brand and your culture. (We have a client that historically used a big pie-chart to discuss their client pipeline, so now they celebrate new wins with homemade pies shared by the team and sent to the new client!)
During the early weeks, caring for your strategic plan might feel like trying to light a fire in the pouring rain. It takes incredible and gentle attention and exhaustive effort to get the kindling to light. Then it’s a scramble to gather the fuel to grow the flame. But finally it will burn on its own, throughout your organization – even when the weather is less than ideal.
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