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A key role of a CEO's is to communicate a vision and to guide strategic planning.

Those
who have successfully implemented strategic plans have often reported that involving
teams at all levels in strategic planning helps to build a shared vision, and increases
each individual's motivation to see plans succeed.
Clarity and consistent communication, from mapping desired outcomes to designing
performance measures, seem to be essential to success. Successful leaders have often
engaged their teams by simply telling the story of their shared vision, and publicly
celebrating large and small wins, such as the achievement of milestones. To ensure that
the vision is shared, teams need to know that they can test the theory, voice opinions,
challenge premises, and suggest alternatives without fear of reprimand.
Implementing strategic plans may require leaders who lead through inspiration and
coaching rather than command and control. Recognizing and rewarding success,
inspiring, and modeling behaviors is more likely to result in true commitment than use of
authority, which can lead to passive resistance and hidden rebellion.

CREATING STRATEGIC PLANS


The senior management team must come together to review, discuss, challenge, and
finally agree on the strategic direction and key components of the plan. Without genuine
commitment from the senior team, successful implementation is unlikely.
Strategic group members must challenge themselves to be clear in their purpose and
intent, and to push for consistent operational definitions that each member of the team
agrees to. This prevents differing perceptions or turf-driven viewpoints later on. A
carefully chosen, neutral facilitator can be essential in helping the team to overcome
process, group dynamics, and interpersonal issues.
A common way to begin is to review the organization's current state and future
possibilities using a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat) analysis. This
involves identifying strengths and core capabilities in products, resources, people, and
customers. These are what the organization is best at, and why it is in business. Many
organizations have responded to this review by spinning off ventures that were not
related to their core business. For example, Chrysler sold its interests in Maserati,
Lambourghini, and Diamond Star and then concentrated on developing "great cars,
great trucks." This sent a clear message to employees and other stakeholders, and
triggered the company's renaissance.

Using SWOT, once strengths and core capabilities are defined the next step is to identify
weaknesses or vulnerabilities. This is usually the most difficult for organizations and
leaders to assess. The identification of gaps is often threatening. In some organizations
it is not considered safe to admit to weakness; but an honest appraisal can make the
difference between success and failure. Again, reviews should include a look at
products, services, resources, customers, and employees. Do the right skills exist in the
current staff? Are there enough resources to invest in areas of critical need? Are the
appropriate systems and structures in place to support the needs of the team? Does the
culture reinforce and connect with the mission and vision of the organization?
Now the review moves to the external environment. What opportunities exist for
development and growth? Do these opportunities correspond to the organization's
strengths? What are the critical changes the market faces over the next one, three, and
five years? How well is the organization positioned for the anticipated market changes?
Additional points for debate include the greatest innovation or change that needs to
occur for the organization to be successful, and the values that will drive these changes.
Next, using the SWOT assessment process, threats in the current and future market are
identified. How is the competition positioned relative to the opportunities for growth that
have been identified, and how are they positioned relative to the organization's strengths
and weaknesses?
With this information, organizations can finalize their strategy by defining the vision,
creating a mission statement, and identifying their competitive advantages. The
communication of the strategy will require a clear, consistent message. It is an ideal time
for the leadership to operationally define each critical area of the plan to ensure
agreement and commitment. Key stakeholders should be included in the process.
Soliciting their input is often a valuable aide in implementation.
Finally, organizations should review each of the gaps that have been identified. Do the
necessary resources exist to invest in shoring up the gaps? Are these resources
allocated properly? It is usually not possible to address all of the gaps at once.
Organizations should create a priority list for action so plans are realistic and focused on
the greatest areas of need. These priorities will become a key focus of implementing the
plan.
Once the senior leadership team has completed the top-level strategy, the next step is to
break that overall goal down into functional areas or core strategies. Typically this will
include service/operations management, technology management, product
management, supplier management, people management, and financial management,

or some variation on these areas. Each identifies how they contribute to achieving the
overall strategic plan. They can model the steps taken by the senior team and conduct a
SWOT analysis from their vantage point. Once the core strategies are defined, the
senior team must ensure that the overall strategy will be achieved; that is, that the sum
of the parts (functional strategies) will add up to the whole (overall strategy).
Strategy communication continues to be critical, so operational definitions should not be
overlooked. Each functional area should create their own definitions to ensure
agreement and commitment. A common source of problems in implementation is that
divergent functional perspectives may not be aligned with the overall strategy. Unless
these issues are addressed, each area may interpret the plan with a lens of "How does
my area win?" rather than "How does the organization win?"
Key stakeholders can be engaged in different ways. Aside from events, publicity,
and personification of the vision and strategy by key leaders, stakeholders can be
engaged by soliciting their input on the current state of the organization and the vision
(similar to the SWOT analysis described earlier). Involving stakeholders in this manner
should be done seriously, with an intent to use their distinct perspectives; this can add to
the soundness of the analysis. Asking for opinions and then ignoring them can arouse
distrust and resentment.
As the strategic plan and performance measures are being created, the organization
must make sure that they are aligned with the systems, structure, culture, and
performance management architecture. The best plans may fail because the reward
systems motivate different behaviors than those called for in the strategy map and
measurement design. For example, if a team approach to business development is
outlined in the plan, but sales commission remains individual, organizations will be hard
pressed to see a team focus.
The career development, performance management and reward systems must be
reviewed to ensure linkage to and support of the strategic intent. Many organizations
have found they needed to link their strategic plan to their internal systems and
structures to ensure overall alignment and to avoid confusion.