Strategic planning is an integral part of business. Work doesn’t end with strategic concepts, though. While many companies are great at coming up with strategic initiatives, they struggle with turning big ideas into executable business goals.
Strategy expert Jeroen Kraaijenbrink said, “The success rate of strategy execution is incredibly low. The fail percentages found in scientific studies range from as low as 7% to as high as 90%, with an average of about 50%.”
This rate of success demonstrates the difficulty in translating strategic concepts into business goals. Kraaijenbrink highlighted 20 problems that have been consistent throughout the years when it comes to strategic execution failure. Common themes among the issues include communication problems, leadership breakdowns, and lack of adaptability.
To combat the common pitfalls, follow these steps to translate strategic concepts into business goals and objectives successfully.
Assign Clear Responsibilities
Ambiguous roles and responsibilities, as well as conflicting goals and lack of commitment, are listed as some of the reasons businesses fail to realize their strategic concepts.
To translate strategic planning into clear business goals, give teams or employees ownership of specific strategic objectives. Allow them to adapt big picture ideas into short-term and long-term business goals. These goals can be broken down into tasks to be executed by individuals or smaller teams.
When responsibilities are unclear, no one takes full ownership of the tasks needed to achieve short-term and long-term goals. Furthermore, hiring the right people for jobs becomes more complicated. When abstract concepts are turned into goals and tasks, it’s easier to know who you need to hire and what they must do to help an organization move toward success.
It’s only when a team or employee has ownership of an outcome and process that they feel empowered to take steps to make it happen.
Hire a Strong Middle Management Team
Many businesses focus heavily on hiring a top-notch executive leadership team and focus less on their middle managers. Frequently, though, strategic concepts break down when middle management fails to turn them into clear business goals. Hiring strong leadership at all levels in the company and ensuring they understand objectives pays off.
The best managers can translate big ideas into everyday tasks. They’re also adaptable when things change. Experience in strategic planning, as well as comfort with setting long-term and short-term goals, is essential at the middle management level.
An article on staffing agency Robert Half’s blog said, “Being able to interpret the strategy of top-level management is one of the most important facets of a mid-level manager’s job. If they don’t understand the message, they have little chance of carrying out the strategic directives at an operational level.”
Because middle managers are the bridge between top-level strategic planning and the day-to-day tasks that go into achieving business goals, they are an essential link to your organization’s success. Bring them into the strategic planning process for better outcomes.
Set Firm Priorities
Strategic planning will likely include many long-term and short-term business goals. After you’ve decided which teams and employees are ultimately responsible for each part of your strategic vision, you must help them prioritize their goals.
A short-term goal should take no longer than six months to achieve. Anything that takes more time is considered a long-term goal. While both can be worked on simultaneously, knowing what priorities are will ensure that teams keep working effectively and efficiently toward strategic objectives.
Setting priorities is imperative, not just when it comes to listing short-term and long-term business goals, but when allocating time and money to projects. Harvard Business Review stated, “There are three interdependent variables that are essential for executing any initiative — objectives, resources, and timing. You can’t produce the desired effect of a project without precise objectives, ample resources, and a reasonable time frame.”
According to Harvard Business Review, all goals are categorized as one of the following: critical, important, or desirable.
- Critical goals need all monetary, time, and human resources available first. They are imperative to the success of the organization.
- Important goals can have a positive impact on the business, but time or resources may vary depending on what critical goals take priority.
- Desirable goals are those that the company wants but cannot unequivocally commit resources to reach.
When resources are reallocated, they are usually taken from desirable goals and placed on critical and important goals. Defining where each business objective fits into your strategic concept helps managers make tough choices and prioritize effectively.
Unclear communication or lack of communication, along with resistance to change, appeared in the list of reasons strategic company goals fail. The two go together. Change is less scary when communication is clear and consistent. Uncomfortable moments of change in business are unavoidable when striving towards lofty strategic concepts.
The best business communication, especially during times of change, is open and relationship-driven. Author, speaker, and CEO David Villa included the following tips about communicating, among others, in an article for Forbes:
Spare no detail.
When leaders keep valuable information to themselves, employees may believe there is no plan. Worse, they can’t execute on the business goals necessary to reach the objectives laid out during strategic planning.
Understand their concerns.
Villa encourages leaders to allow employees to “feel their fears.” These fears could be rooted in real challenges that could keep strategic concepts from succeeding.
Don’t perceive silence as acceptance.
Villa stated, “In the 20-plus years I’ve led people professionally, I’ve learned those who say nothing can bring momentum to a screeching halt.”
Show your gratitude.
Employees must know they’re appreciated when they work hard to meet business goals and objectives.
Maintaining healthy communication in your organization will have lasting effects and help you translate strategic concepts into business goals effectively.
Assessing progress is essential to the success of your business goals and objectives. You don’t want to find out that your strategic management concepts are falling apart in execution after the fact. When all the steps have been taken to break down your strategic planning into executable business goals, check the progress of the goals regularly.
Depending on your company setup, assessing progress could include:
- Daily stand-up meetings
- Monthly reporting
- Clear milestones
- One-on-ones with project owners
What’s most important, though, is building a culture in which employees feel comfortable asking their leaders and coworkers for help when they need it, feel accountable, and buy into the strategic concepts the organization is striving to reach.
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