What Good Is A Strategic Plan Without Ensuring Follow-through?

June 22, 2016 2:35 pm

Creating lofty action plans seems to be the rule of many strategic planning sessions these days. Most participants truly intend to fulfill their obligations during the planning session – but following the session is another matter entirely! Day-to-day operations, putting out fires, organizational and competitive pressures, and shareholder requirements overtly and covertly stop us from even initiating our action plan.

So the question remains; ‘how do we proactively ensure that these pressures are taken into consideration?’ As well, ‘How do we create prescriptions for action planning that make sense and have a better likelihood of being achieved?’ The answer is troubleshooting and this can easily be done before the planning session ends.

The Action Plan Troubleshooting Process

Step #1:

Following the action planning process, have your group identify all of the things that could get in the way of successful plan implementation. Create anticipatory strategies or contingency plans to deal with each potential barrier.

Use the following questions to help identify trouble spots:

  • What are the most difficult, complex or sensitive aspects of our plan?
  • What sudden shifts could take place to change priorities or otherwise change the environment?
  • What organizational blocks and barriers could we run into?
  • What technical or materials-related problems could stop or delay us?
  • Should we be aware of any HR issues? Which ones?
  • How might members of this team not fulfill their commitments?

Document responses using the following flipchart format:

Action Possible Barriers Potential Solutions

Step #2:

After documenting possible barriers, have the group brainstorm potential solutions to eliminate the barrier(s). Results from this discussion typically lead to modification of the original actions. Areas often modified include:

  1. Timelines (i.e. when the action is expected to be completed)
  2. Success measures (i.e. degree, # or % of improvement expected, etc.)
  3. Resource availability (i.e. who will be carrying out or supporting the action)

Step #3:

Some solutions will not necessarily result in planning modifications, but will rather be ‘contingencies’ set out if the specific, original actions are unable to proceed. Document these contingencies and plan to meet again in 3-4 months to review how effective the group has been in following through on its actions. Should some actions still not be happening, plan to fall back on the contingency solutions. Should your group come up with more than one contingency, be prepared to prioritize.

Remember that troubleshooting, just like the planning process itself, always has better follow-through when participants feel a part of the process and see themselves reflected in the outcome

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