Business Planning, Strategy & Execution
In order for any business to succeed they need to have the right planning, the right strategy, and the right execution of these things. Tang & Partners LLP helps its clients expand and grow by providing them all three. We know how important it is to have the right plan, if your plan is wrong then every step you take will be in the wrong direction as well. This moves companies away from their objective instead of towards it. We study our clients deeply before suggesting any plan, because we have to ensure that we have all the variables in check.
Once we have a plan, we work with our clients on creating a strategy. Many people think strategy and plan are the same but Tang & Partners LLP knows better. We know that plan is what we try to achieve and strategy is how we are going to achieve it.
There are 6 steps to successfully executive a Strategy.
It goes without saying that the first step needed to successfully execute a strategy, is the planning process. Planning isn’t just about actions, it’s also about frameworks and methods.
Your planning phase needs to address at least the following questions:
- What are you going to ultimately achieve?
- What steps (big and small) will you be taking to get there?
- What framework will you be using to keep you focused and on track (think the Balanced Scorecard, McKinsey’s Strategic Horizons, etc)?
- How will you structure your strategy reporting?
- What frequency will your strategy meetings be?
- What communications plan do you have in place for your strategy?
- Who will your strategy mentors or advisers be?
Don’t even start the ‘doing’ phase until you can confidently answer each of the above!
Once you’ve created your plan – you need to start the process of engaging your organization. In reality the communication process should have been taking place in parallel to the planning.
Communication needs to be two-way – i.e. you need to establish a mechanism for people to feedback their views about the strategy both at the start and as it rolls out. Some ideas for ways that you can facilitate this kind of constructive communication include:
- A CRM system where collaboration and communication can be achieved, understandably participants may be at different countries and documents sharing is critical.
- Regular ‘all staff’ forums specifically about the strategic plan
- A structured one-to-one meeting framework that includes dedicated discussion time on the strategy in meetings between managers and subordinates
- An open and collaborative culture (this is a whole big topic in itself of course!)
- Regular formal and informal surveys and questionnaires about the progress of the strategy
Don’t fall into the trap of doing a great job of communicating at the start, only to see efforts fall away as people go back to business-as-usual! This is why planning your communications out ahead of time is so important – to ensure that you keep your momentum up!
OK so you’ve got a plan – the next step is to start creating tangible goals, owned by individuals that will actually move your plan towards fruition. This is really the first step of the Cascading process – linking back all of the activities of your senior team to the strategic plan.
It may be seem obvious, but often organizations create a plan, communicate it, and almost expect the rest to happen by magic. Creating goals with/for your people will help bring structure around execution of the plan, and also flush out any areas that might have been overlooked.
It’s also the time when an additional element of pragmatism can be applied. Goal setting can help tease out things like:
- Whether or not the plan is realistic given resource constraints
- Whether you have the right people and skills to execute every aspect of the plan
- How well people have understood your overarching objectives
Goals will also become the bedrock for your ongoing tracking, reporting and performance management – each of which is a key element in a successful execution program.
There are really two key components to effective tracking and reporting. Firstly, you need to ensure that everyone in your organization is regularly updating the progress of their own goals. This doesn’t have to be arduous or time-consuming – just a few minutes per month is usually enough – perhaps just prior to a team meeting or the regular strategy sessions you’ve booked into people’s diaries.
Updates should include a quantitative measure of progress against the goal, as well a short line or two of commentary to add flavor and give a rounded picture of progress.
Goals should never be seen as static – it’s a given that sometimes you’ll need to edit the deadline of a goal, or even rewrite it entirely as your organisation evolves. That’s fine, and indeed should be encouraged – so long as visibility of those changes exists.
This is where things start to become a little more progressive – and in our opinion where the vast majority of strategy execution approaches start to unravel. To successfully execute a strategy – you need your entire business process to reflect the importance of that strategy.
Performance management (and appraisals in general) are often viewed as the sole domain of Human Resources. Worse still, they’re viewed as a process for the sake of a process – or at least for the sake of management alone. You’d be hard pressed to find actual users of the most common performance management systems that have positive things to say about the experience – let alone espouse on how it helps them to better execute strategy.
In our view, performance management should be a natural extension of goal setting, which in turn is a natural extension of your strategic plan. It is therefore a critical part of the execution journey.
As you go through the process of appraising your people, you need to be able to draw clear connections between how well they’ve executed on their specific component of the strategic plan, and their ultimate assessment / score / etc.
The only way that a performance management process can help you execute on your plan is if it meets the following checks:
- Goals must relate directly back to the organization’s strategic plan
- It must explicitly measure and reward people for their contribution to the overall strategy
- It must be simple to use and as close to ‘fun’ as possible
- It must celebrate achievement of people and teams above all else
- It must be social, transparent, fair and well understood
The natural evolution of performance management is remuneration. You’ve put so much effort into planning, communicating and goal setting – yet so many people fail to follow through with strategy into the one thing that ultimately we all (almost all) work for – money. We’re now 5 steps ‘away’ from where our journey started with our strategic plan – but the importance of connecting remuneration back to strategy cannot be understated.
If you got step 5 right, and did a good job of linking performance management > goals > strategy – then this should be easy enough. But as you go through your initial thoughts on pay rises and bonuses for your people – make sure to sense check yourself. Did the person receiving the highest pay rise / bonus make the single biggest contribution to executing your strategic plan??
Don’t forget that remuneration or more broadly ‘reward’, doesn’t just have to be monetary. It could be travel perks, sending people to conferences, extending them additional leadership opportunities – anything at all that you’re doing on a merit basis.
It’s important to establish firm links between the rewards you give out and the execution of (elements) of your strategy – this needs to be deeply embedded in the culture of the organization.