If you're following our series on Top Tips for Effective Strategy, by now you'll know what strategy is for, how to provide an evidence base for your strategic decisions, and how to get a set of strategic priorities. You might think the hard work is done, but without this next step, your strategy won't achieve much. So read on to find out why communication and implementation are so important.
Having effective plans for communication and implementation takes your strategy from a document gathering dust on a shelf to a framework that drives and supports change. Where strategy provides the what and why of activities, implementation focuses on the who, where, when and how. And communications lets people know - your stakeholders and your staff - about the change described in the strategy. Without both implementation and communication working together, your strategy will be doomed to fail.
If you're feeling apprehensive, we understand! But figuring out your plans for implementation and communication is just another step on the strategy journey. We've gathered our five top tips for both elements below.
Top tips for implementation
1. Be specific
The first stage of any implementation is to work out the specific actions you'll need to carry out to deliver your strategy. Think through each objective individually. Discuss what is needed to achieve your objectives and when in the timeframe these tasks will need to be completed by. Your implementation plan should then capture these actions and plot them against a one, three or five year timescale. So, if one of your objectives is to raise the profile of a particular activity or product, your actions are likely to include increased marketing and brand awareness, and - potentially - raising staff awareness. Your implementation plan should capture the overall activity (raising staff awareness) and then detail the specific steps that might be needed (test staff knowledge levels, design training, deliver training, test knowledge gain, etc.).
2. Assign ownership
As with any activity or project, it's essential to know who's doing what, and who is responsible for managing progress. With strategy, however, this is often a step that gets missed out. A useful approach is to identify a senior 'champion' for each area who will oversee progress in each area. You'll also need to identify who will actually do the work. Include these roles on your implementation plan. If you're unsure, then the RACI framework is useful here, setting out who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed.
3. Be realistic
Your implementation plan should reflect a set of actions that is achievable in your circumstances. This means being realistic about timescales, resources and available skills. If your strategy includes an objective to cut out the use of paper, for example, you'll need to carefully consider what resources you'll need to enhance your digital capabilities, including hardware and software, staff knowledge and skills, business processes and, of course, finances. If an objective is too stretching, it may be better to state actions that will take you further towards the goal than making claims for something that can't be achieved.
4. Celebrate success
It's easy to get overwhelmed by strategy, and to push actions a long way into the future. To keep people engaged with your objectives, however, it's crucial to celebrate what you can achieve along the way. As you create your implementation plan, make sure you include tasks that can be delivered quickly and easily, as well as those that will demonstrate progress throughout the lifetime of your strategy.
5. Embed into the everyday
Finally, for a really successful strategy, the changes you make along the way should be built into your business processes, so that they become part of business-as-usual rather than a separate project. Embedding activities in this way is the only way you can make the transformation that your strategy promises.
As well as developing your implementation plan, you'll need to think about how you share all this information with the people that matter - your staff, your customers and your other stakeholders.
Our top tips for communication are:
1. Who are you communicating to? Mapping the different types of stakeholders will enable you to make informed decisions about communication.
2. What do they need or want to hear? This is where you should try to match the key messages you want to tell with what your stakeholders need or want to know.
3. When is the best time to communicate? You'll need to think about when communications are rolled out, and how interest is maintained.
4. How should you communicate? Your stakeholders might access information through different channels, so think about what will work best for each group. Print, online and social should all be a part of your plans.
5. Who will provide content? If you strategy is organisation wide, then your stakeholders are likely to listen to some people more than others. Make sure you include messages from a diverse variety of voices.
We'll say more about communication in our post about stakeholder engagement, but these top tips should be a good place to start. Next up, we'll guide you through the process of evaluating the progress and success of your strategy. You can revisit the other parts of this series here. And remember, if you're struggling with any of these stages of strategy development, please do get in touch.
As an associate model, Lucidity Solutions Ltd and The Partnership Lab combine skills to create a service that supports all elements of strategy development and implementation, from understanding the operating context to working with stakeholders to implement your vision. Get in touch to find out more.