Before we start chatting about who should be involved in strategy deployment, I think it’s important to point out the difference between strategic planning and strategy deployment. Most organizations have gone through a strategic planning exercise at one point or another, but very few can turn that plan into sustained action over the long-term.
Because creating the plan is only the first step to reaching an organization’s breakthrough goals. In order to be successful, that plan must be integrated into day-to-day activities and decision making. In other words, it must be deployed, and that’s a job for, well, everybody.
Let’s look at the primary steps in strategy deployment and dig into how the team contributes at each stage.
Setting the Direction
The first step in strategy deployment is knowing where the organization is headed and what the ideal future holds. This is generally accomplished by selecting a few breakthrough objectives that will propel the organization toward True North. These are big ideas that might involve new products, markets, business models, or partnerships. In most cases, of course, it isn’t practical or helpful to let every person have input into the breakthrough objectives, we’re not recommending that direction setting be done via straw poll, but there is still a role to play for everyone.
Executives – Ultimately the executive team has responsibility for setting the direction that the organization will take. They are in the best position to understand the state of the organization, the market, and the available resources. Strategic planning must start here, but that’s not where it ends. An additional responsibility is convincing the rest of the organization that the effort and accountability needed to reach True North will be worth it.
Managers – Managers are in the best position to communicate with their teams about the strategic planning process and provide insight into how the breakthrough objectives will be determined. They can serve as a portal for feedback and provide information about how the plan is being received.
Front Line Employees – While every person may not be involved in direction setting itself, smart leaders want to know if the overall mission is resonating with employees at every level. Front-line employees can provide valuable feedback and become a sounding board for leadership. This can be achieved through focus groups, surveys, and individual conversations.
Cascading the Goals
Long-term breakthrough goals are essential, but they will only be dreams if each person doesn’t understand what they need to do to help the organization get there. That’s why it is crucial to breaking those big ideas down into actionable steps that can be taken right away. Again, this is a team effort.
Executives – The leadership team must determine who has ownership of each of the breakthrough goals and how they impact each function of the organization. From there, the process of cascading the goals down the org chart can begin.
Managers – Managers should determine how each of their departmental goals should be broken down to the team and individual level. They are in the best position to know how each player on the team can and should contribute.
Front-line Employees – The smartest leaders don’t merely assign goals to employees. They make space for the individual, with knowledge of the department and organizational goals, to help craft their own objectives. This increases emotional engagement and creates a sense of ownership. People work much harder to achieve the goals they set for themselves.
Identifying Opportunities for Improvement
Once the goals are determined and socialized across the organization, the rubber meets the road. Everyone knows where they are going and what he or she needs to achieve to get there. The question now becomes, how? Forward progress involves finding and executing on opportunities for positive change that will impact the success metrics in some way.
Front-line Employees – I’ve listed the first on this one because employees are almost always in the position to identify and implement opportunities for improvement. They know what challenges the organization faces, and, in many cases, how to fix them. What strategy deployment gives them is a framework for recognizing the types of incremental improvements to suggest.
Managers – Managers will usually vet and prioritize opportunities for improvement based on how well they align with the cascaded goals of the team. They also have the responsibility for recognizing and broadcasting improvements and assuring accountability.
Executives – Executive leaders set the tone for the organization and should work to develop a culture that welcomes feedback, values transparency, and rewards innovation. In this type of environment, strategy deployment takes hold.
Your organization might have more than three layers, or maybe it has none. Either way, when you think about strategy deployment, concentrate on how it impacts every person on the team. If it doesn’t, your results will likely disappoint.