Publish date: 12 April 2019
Issue Number: 66
By Lee Rossini
Deciding on new strategic priorities is an easy part of the strategic management process. The challenges lie in the implementation and execution of the chosen strategies. The responsibility lies with management to convert the strategies into action plans which ensure that things get done to achieve the vision and objectives of the business. This consists of actions such as motivating employees, introducing new programs which will build knowledge and competencies, ensuring continuous improvement in processes and meeting or beating the performance objectives. Implementation and execution can be especially tough in a small financial advice business where the owner is the manager as well as the principal financial adviser.
This sounds easier than it is. The manager or managers involved in developing and managing the action plans require a range of skills to get the implementation process moving. These include people-management skills, using initiative to kickstart the various plans, maintaining perseverance to keep the plans going, especially when things get tough and challenging and the ability to deal with any number of issues, small and large, that may arise during the implementation process.
The reality of coming up with a new strategy is that not everyone in the business will be willing to implement it. Employees may not see the benefit of the new strategy or they may be concerned about their jobs if the strategy is implemented. For example, if management decides to make use of a robo-advice system, para-planners may feel threatened about the future of their jobs. Long-standing unhealthy business culture, attitudes, inertia and practices are also likely to present challenges when implementing new strategies. Overcoming these issues and building consensus around the benefits of the new strategies and the reasons for it takes skill, time and focus.
Although the CEO and senior managers are ultimately responsible for the implementation and execution of the new strategies, every employee in the business should be asking and thinking through the answers to the following question: 'What has to be done in my area to implement my part in the strategic plan, and what should I do to get these things done?' This encourages employees to be responsible (even if only for a small part) of the implementation of different aspects of the strategy.
Although there are no strict guidelines to be followed when implementing strategy as the situation and issues will be peculiar to a business, there are certain tasks that will support the process. These tasks include:
- Identifying the competencies, knowledge and resources needed to execute the strategy.
- Developing budgets which move resources into the actions that are critical to the strategy.
- Checking that existing policies and procedures support the strategy.
- Instituting best practices and encouraging continual improvement of these practices.
- Ensuring that employees can carry out the aspects that are relevant to their jobs.
- Linking rewards and incentives to the achievement of performance objectives and strategy implementation.
- Creating a work environment and culture which is supportive of and committed to achieving the strategy.
- Maintaining leadership focus on implementation and improvement of strategy.
Although these tasks can sound onerous, by thinking them through and applying them in a manner which is relevant to the business, the chances of successfully implementing a strategy will increase significantly. Making changes to business strategy relies on the effective and persuasive communication of why the changes are necessary to the future of the business. The owners and managers should lead employees on the journey of change in a manner which is motivating and demonstrates their own commitment to achieving the vision and strategic objectives of the business.
Source: Thompson Jr AA and Strikland III AJ Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases 13th ed (2003) McGraw-Hill