Is Your Strategy Due for a Check-Up?

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Author : Holly Green
Published: May 06, 2013

In today’s markets, strategic plans can get off track faster than a speeding bullet train. If you don’t constantly monitor and measure your plan’s progress, you may end up at a very different destination than originally planned. So whether it’s once a quarter, once a month, or once a week, you need to regularly assess and update your strategic plan. To get started, here is a list of questions to ask:

• Are we making progress towards the goal?

• Is it still visible?

• What are we doing to stay focused on the most important initiatives?

• What (if anything) has changed in our markets or with our customers?

• How do we need to respond to those changes and by when?

• Who is responsible for implementing these changes?

One simple way to do this is with a routinely updated scorecard. This helps to clarify the strategy and goals while managing alignment across your team, client, and initiatives. It also provides diverse views into the business and helps to maintain focus across all the important indicators.

A scorecard makes the elements of your destination points very real by noting them in tangible, near-term, measurable ways. It also helps to further refine expectations and standards of excellence. Most important, a scorecard answers the question: “How will we know if we’re moving towards our destination?”

There are a number of metrics that you can use, depending on your industry. Good examples include new customers, time reduced in inventory, or website traffic generated. These forecast your future performance and provide insight into what is to come.

Next, measure what your key stakeholders (customers, employees, vendors, etc.) care most about. Product quality? On-time delivery? Your responsiveness to fixing problems? Find ways to quantify these measurements, and make sure they match up with what your stakeholders truly care about. Don’t just guess.

Another approach uses the following to outline, by strategy, what your scorecard looks like. Answer the questions in each section to see how the pieces fit together.

Strategy

• Are we focused on the right thing?

Key Initiatives & Commitments

• What will we do by when?

• Who is on the hook for results?

Key Measures (including targets and/or destination points)

• How will we know if we are making progress?

Risks & Mitigating Actions

• What are our risks?

• How can we minimize them?

This makes it easy to see the links between the strategies, initiatives and measures, and the risks or barriers. It also clarifies who needs to do what by when. It encourages accountability throughout the organization. And it develops a more proactive view by forcing you to consider and manage the risks before they become serious problems. It does not matter exactly which tool you use, just choose a tool that will work in your organization and that you will commit to sticking with.

Once you’ve created the scorecard, communicate it to employees – over and over again until everyone knows it well. You can’t over-communicate about your strategic planning framework and objectives. And your ongoing behavior in this regard will make it evident that you are steadfast in getting the company to where it needs to go.

Report progress as broadly as possible each month, including any challenges or barriers that may arise, and note how you are adjusting timelines or other elements. If you don’t communicate in these areas, people will MSU (make stuff up) and create much worse scenarios about why you’re not getting to where you need to go. The less made- up thought bubbles, the better!

I used to tell clients that “you can do it right the first time or you can go too fast and do it over.” I don’t say that too often anymore because today’s markets change so quickly that if you don’t get it right the first time, you may not get the chance for a do-over.

So get going on that scorecard, and make sure you’re still on track to reach your destination!