How to make sure your business strategy makes it outside of the boardroom

 It is all very well spending weeks coming up with a perfect business plan to drive your growth. But how do you make sure that your strategy translates to action?

To have an impact, your carefully-crafted strategy needs to be turned into an actionable people plan that defines what employees need to do and how to behave.

Talk tactics
Most businesses will have a number of strategic actions they’ve developed in order to meet their goals. But the actions need to translate into tactics, otherwise all you’ve got is a very expensive, futile document.

It’s the responsibility of the board to ensure that the strategy is translated into something that’s meaningful to each department. For the board, who’ve more than likely been consulted at every stage of the strategy’s development, the focus is clear. But those who have actions imposed on them need to be given a very clear idea not just of what, but why and how.

To make sure the actions of the strategy are delivered, the heads of each function need to work together to translate the plan into achievable actions, and explain what it means for all employees. Some companies will create a strategic plan in the boardroom, which is passed to the senior management team to decide on the tangible actions, then cascade the information down to managers and teams. But everything must be aligned, and the communication of what’s involved mustn’t stop at middle management – if you want to get all your employees on board, you must have an internal communications strategy that ensures every single member of the organisation has a clear goal.

Keep it clear
A common error I see in businesses which fail to meet strategic objectives is a lack of definition in the strategy. Plans are vague or futuristic, and there’s too much jargon that doesn’t actually translate into achievable actions. Convoluted sentences full of long words may look impressive on paper, but try asking a frontline retail worker to ensure that they are at the cutting edge of pioneering customer relationships and delivering an exceptional and unique experience by creating opportunities to upscale their product trading activities.

Including a target to utilise big data to predict the needs of customers, for example, may be an astute business move, but if the people on the frontline don’t know what big data is or how they find it, your plan is doomed to fail. Tell them to record as much information about each customer as possible, and you have an achievable action.

Keep it simple and make sure that there’s individual accountability, communicated to each person in a way they can identify with.

Include a people plan
A business strategy alone isn’t enough to ensure targets are reached – you need a people plan.

Who will deliver the actions you’ve identified? What skills and training will they need? What tools will you need to deploy in order to expand into the areas you’ve identified? How will you measure each person’s individual performance?

A member of our team recently went to Disneyland Paris, and couldn’t agree with her husband on whether to go on a ride or watch a parade. A member of Disney staff who was collecting litter politely interrupted and suggested they watch the parade from the queue for the ride.

He wasn’t there just to pick up litter – he was part of a team that had been briefed to make magic for guests.

Giving people a personal plan with proactive performance management will help everyone understand what’s required of them, and how they contribute.

Monitor, measure and react
Plans need to be monitored and measured to ensure they’re working, otherwise the strategy will become a dusty relic on the corner of the CEO’s desk.

Collaboration needs to happen from the top down and the bottom up to ensure that the strategy is achieving its goals. If part of the plan isn’t achieving the desired results, then that plan needs to change. Just because something’s been written down and agreed, doesn’t mean it has to be rigidly enforced. Flexibility is key, and adapting to external factors is an essential aspect of reaching those all-important targets.

To reach your goals, you need to constantly think about what you can do differently and keep a close eye on what your competitors are doing. By being flexible, open to change, and always striving to be on top, your strategy won’t fail.

Susy Roberts, executive coach and founder of international people development consultancy Hunter Roberts