Once your planning process is complete, how can you make sure you are successful at implementation? We reviewed strategic plans within our own organization and those of our clients to find out. Among the many themes that influenced success or struggle, one stood out. A “strategic plan champion”.
What is a champion for a strategic plan? In almost every case in which we saw a higher than average completion rate on strategic projects, there was a member of the leadership team driving the work. A champion does the following 2 things to make sure a strategic plan is successful.
First, a champion ensures that the leadership team meets regularly to discuss progress – at least once a month, usually twice. If team members are unavailable on the regular meeting day and time, the champion will set a new meeting so that the progress is assessed every month. Why? If 2 months lapse between meetings, the message is sent that the plan is not a priority, problems go unchecked and changes in strategy cannot be explored.
Meeting regularly to discuss progress on each project on a strategic plan, problem solve and adjust as needed makes sure that the plan is an accurate reflection of the organization’s priorities and is up-to-date. An accurate, talked about plan is a plan that is much more likely to be implemented. Therefore, a champion makes sure these meetings happen.
Second, a champion hounds team members about their progress on their assigned tasks. Sounds harsh? It really isn’t. The champion does not let the team rest if what was due to be completed is unfinished. He or she asks the needed questions so that the plan can continue to move forward:
- Does a task on the plan need to be changed, i.e., is it still relevant to the strategy and project?
- Has a team member run into problems completing a task that the rest of the team can help with?
- Does a team member have other responsibilities outside of the strategic plan that are taking him or her away from the strategic work? Can those outside tasks or the strategic tasks be reassigned so that the plan stays on track?
A champion simply continues to ask the questions. When a plan falls behind, the champion drives the conversation in the meeting until the plan and tasks are updated to match the current strategic direction of the organization, problems are resolved and/or tasks are reassigned to assure there is no break in progress. It is not a matter of pointing fingers or laying blame. It is a matter of knowing that the strategic work is essential, and making sure that the work is getting done.
If you have had lackluster performance on your strategic plan, try assigning a champion to the task. Make sure all team members understand the role of the champion is to push the whole team to success, not to pick on or berate team members. Establishing this culture and attitude around your champion brings the support of the team. We have seen much higher completion rates when it is done well.
Questions? Contact us for steps or tools you can use to establish a champion for your strategic plan.