By Michael Wilkinson, CMF
Managing Director, Leadership Strategies, Inc.

In a previous newsletter article, we defined four primary pitfalls to strategy execution.

The Urgency Principle

In most organizations, it is easy to focus on responding to what’s clamoring for our attention (urgent but not necessarily important)). As a result the strategic plan (important but not urgent), takes a back seat to responding to the needs of the moment.

Lack of Alignment

Too many organizations try to implement a strategy without a) aligning the organization to achieve it or b) restructuring the reward systems to support it. Like a car that is out of alignment, until correction is made to the underlying problem, the organization will naturally flow off course.

Lack of Accountability

When people are asked to give an account for their actions, or lack thereof, and when there are positive or negative consequences related to their results, a stronger focus on execution is typically the result.

Infrequent Review

Management gurus learned long ago: that which is measured, improves. Unfortunately, all too often, we don’t go back to the plan until it’s time for the update, 12 months later. When a lack of review gets combined with the urgency principle, it is easy to see how strategies ripe for execution can die on the vine due to lack of attention.

Addressing the Infrequent Review Pitfall

We recommend a three-level review of the strategic plan. To illustrate our recommendation, let’s assume that a non-profit organization has established five goals, each with three objectives and a set of strategies. Seven strategies were specifically selected as priority. Below are the objectives and strategies for the membership goal.

Membership Goal 3-Year Membership Objectives Membership Strategies
Maximize membership growth, retention and involvement. Increase membership from 500 to 650 (1st year target: 550) Increase average meeting attendance to 250 (1st year: 200) Achieve 10% committee involvement (1st year: 7%) Implement PR program to report activities to the local media for increased awareness (priority strategy) Utilize assessment survey and industry referrals to select quality speakers and topics Hold quarterly committee fairs after meetings

Monthly Review

Each month, the planning team reviews progress in implementing the priority strategies.

To help facilitate the progress review, we recommend establishing monthly deliverables for the priority strategies, as shown in the sample below.

Monthly Deliverables for Priority Strategy Implement PR program to report activities to the local media for increased awareness
JanuaryList of target audience, media, frequency, potential storylines
FebruaryTelephone or face-to-face meeting with at least two media contacts
March1st quarterly press release distributed

Quarterly Review

Each quarter, along with the monthly review, the planning team reviews progress toward the objectives.

We recommend the following format for reviewing objectives. The format shows the three-year objective, the first-year milestone, the organizational unit responsible for achievement, the results to date, expected result by the end of the year, and a grade based on the expected result.

3-Year Objective Yr 1 Who Result to Date / Expectation Grade
Increase membership from 500 to 650 550 Membership 530 to date; at present rate, expect 560 by year end A

The quarterly review also includes making revisions to objectives, making adjustments to strategies as needed and adding new priorities to replace strategies that have been completed.

Annual Review

At the end of each year, the planning team reviews priority strategies and objectives as in the monthly and quarterly reviews.

In addition, the planning team reviews the full plan, identifies new trends and barriers, and makes adjustments as needed.

We recommend the following high-level agenda for the annual strategy review that occurs between the three-year full strategic planning cycles.

Annual Strategic Update Agenda

A.    Getting Started

1.     Welcome and Opening Remarks

2.     Session Objective, Deliverables, Key Issues

3.     Reminder of the Strategic Framework

4.     Agenda, Ground Rules

B.    Review of Past Accomplishments

1.     Grading our performance

  • Review of each objective and progress to date
  • Percent complete on strategies

2.     What have been our key successes?

3.     What have been our significant issues and barriers?

4.     What new trends have emerged?

C.   Setting the Future Direction

1.     Validate the mission and goals

  • Are the mission and goals still relevant in light of the review of past accomplishments?

2.     Revise the objectives as needed

  • Are the current objectives still valid?
  • What new objectives are needed?

3.     Review strategies

  • Will these strategies lead to achieving the objectives?
  • Are there strategies that are no longer relevant?
  • Are there new strategies that should be added?

4.     Select strategies for specific priority

D.   Next Steps

1.     Short-term Action Plan

2.     Communications Plan

3.     Monitoring Plan