6 Strategy Planning Tips – The Bridge from Strategy to Action

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Always a pleasure when I have the chance to join a bright and dynamic team to stand back and reconsider their strategic options. Stepping back from daily tasks gives us a chance to take a breath, consider the view of the horizon and how we’re tracking towards it.

An important part of strategy planning is taking this horizon view and turning it into a clear plan with measurable deliverables.

These are my tips for turning a strategy into a plan.

1.       Check your strategy. Invite the key players to revisit, review, and challenge the strategy.  Does it make sense?  Have we considered current forces in the external environment, customer trends, and competitor activity? Are we clear on how we’re going to win?  Once you have agreement on the strategy, it’s much easier to prioritise the activity and gain support for delivery.

2.       Decide the 1st next step.  Moving away from the ambiguity that naturally sits in the space between a strategy and a plan requires working on clarification.  Momentum is often lost when it’s unclear exactly what the very next action should be. Having a diverse group of people to help work through this stage can be hugely beneficial.  Rather than delegating ambiguity, work as a team to translate strategy to action, at least as far as the first next step, and for major milestones.

3.       Create clear milestones. Milestones should be tangible and measurable deliverables. When articulating a milestone, can you answer: “How will I know when it is done?”  For example, “Deliver paper to leadership team outlining key issues” is stronger than “understand the key issues”. Is it clear how this milestone will assist in meeting the objectives set by the strategy? 

4.       Prioritise. There’s nothing like the excitement of planning for the future to create an ambitious and long to-do list. Chances are we can’t do it all. Consider these actions along a spectrum of effort to implement and level of impact. Which actions are clearly within our control and which are heavily reliant on influencing stakeholders?  Where are the quick wins?  What could we live without?

5.       Ownership. Actions won’t happen unless they have a name next to them. Make sure it’s the right name and not just the first to volunteer. You may wish to divide a large program into “streams” and allocate “stream leads” that can ultimately be accountable for a stream of work, while delegating underlying activities.  I am a strong believer that there should only ever be one owner against any piece of work.  We should collaborate in delivery, but having one lead drives accountability.  

6.       Governance. How will we hold ourselves to account? Agree on reporting of objectives and how often the team will meet to review progress and blocks. Keep it simple and clear.

The best insightful planning session will drift if the butchers paper and post it notes are allowed to linger too long on a desk. Moving from planning to implementation means you can answer these questions:

  • What are the next steps?
  • Who is taking those steps?
  • When are you going to deliver?