Strategy that Sticks

by Mike O'Neill

On the surface, Strategic Planning appears pretty straightforward. But in my experience, problems arise, not so much in the planning, but in the execution of the plan.

If you want your Strategy to Stick, your organization must be able to mobilize both people & resources and to synchronize itself to ensure the right products/services get to the right customers at the right time.

Communication is critical to the success of strategic initiatives and these efforts often fail due to a lack of understanding, commitment and follow-through by key stakeholders.

Wharton’s, Lawrence Hrebiniak offers 5 Keys to Getting the Job Done:


Your managers need to have a model for identifying the critical variables that define, at least for the manager — the things they have to worry about when they put together an implementation plan. Without that, managers will say something like, ‘We just hand the ball off to someone and let them run with it,’ and that’s the execution plan. That isn’t going to go anywhere.”


While sales and market share are always going to be the dominant metrics of business, more & more of the best companies are choosing metrics that help them evaluate not only their financial performance but also whether a plan is succeeding. Consider asking internal clients what would change for them if your department were good or bad — or didn’t exist? Sometimes questions like that can lead to good ideas for performance metrics.


Plans are often simply agreed to and then forgotten. One way to keep the plan on center stage is to separate executive meetings about operations from those focused on strategy. Day-to-day concerns often so overwhelm the executive team that such an agenda management process is the only way to keep executive attention focused on the organization’s progress.


Performance monitoring is still an annual affair at most companies. However, plan assessments at many of the leading companies happen at much more frequent intervals than they did in the past. By shortening the performance monitoring cycle — from quarter-by-quarter to month-by-month or week-by-week — top management can get more “real-time” feedback on the quality of execution down the line.


Companies often go wrong by creating a cultural distinction between the executives who design a strategy and people lower down in the corporate hierarchy who carry it out. Asking ongoing questions about the status of a plan is a good way to ensure that it will continue to be a priority. At other times, plans fail simply because they don’t get communicated to all the people involved.

Meetings between the executive team and managers should be regular and ongoing. It’s that kind of direct, demonstrated leadership that convinces an organization that commitment to a plan is real and that there will be consequences if the plan is not followed through. It’s a signal of commitment from the top that there’s an expectation of commitment from below.




If you do not think about your future, you cannot have one.

– John Galsworthy

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