Too many companies face the challenge of transitioning from planning to reality. They are either great at developing strategic plans or they have employees exhibiting boundless energy at getting things done. But, where they suffer is putting these two strengths together into a cohesive initiative. In essence, the “bridge” that links these two is non-existent.
The development of a strategic plan by senior management is important in determining the position the company will take for future growth and profitability in light of competition, the financial markets, and changes in the geo-political landscape. On the other hand, managers and employees, left to their own devices, will exert tremendous effort in completing the tasks they think they should be doing in order to support the firm. But, in spite of their respective good intentions, neither group communicates in a sufficiently effective manner to bridge the “Strategic-Tactical Gap” (S-T Gap).
We see the ST Gap manifest itself on a routine basis when initiatives fail to implement on time, on budget, or at all. Whether it’s an implementation of SAP, Six Sigma, or the manufacture of widgets, the magnitude of the failure can usually be traced to the width of the ST Gap in the organization.
So, how do we bridge that gap?
It isn’t a matter of simply following one of the many alphabet methodologies that seem to proliferate our business society (i.e. CRMA, PMP, PgMP, MCP, MCSA, etc.). The challenge with these alphabet solutions is that they are fine . . . on paper . . . but seem to lack in execution in the real world, thus leading to the ST Gap. While some might conclude that the alphabet practitioners are performing poorly – and some may be – the frequency of implementation failure would tend to suggest other factors. Nonetheless, the organization must survive and move forward in spite of these people.
So we get back to our original question – how do we bridge the S-T Gap? How about following a logical approach steeped in practicality.
- Define the strategic plan for the organization. What is the desired outcome, target, or goal? Zig Ziglar is credited with the truism “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” No implementation can occur without some form of feedback to reflect the degree of accomplishment being achieved. And this measurement must against a defined target or goal. Without a target, there is no way to measure progress.
- Communicate the strategy. People downline in your organization cannot magically absorb the strategic plan. It will deal with concepts outside their sphere of knowledge and experience. Therefore, it is incumbent upon senior management to define the strategic plan in a way so as to be easily understood by the rank and file. This means breaking down the plan into its components at such a level so that each person in the organization understands how their work effort contributes to the achievement of the corporate plan.
- Provide ongoing feedback. No matter how much care is taken to ensure clear communication from the outset, people will still understand your message through their life experiences; hence, the probability of miscommunication. To combat this risk, regular communication, about the interactive progress being made during the implementation, is key to guaranteeing people are executing properly or making the minor adjustments necessary to ensure goal attainment.
- Share the results. After the implementation is complete, share the results achieved. Highlighting the importance of worker participation, as well as individual contributions toward the strategic plan, increases morale and momentum for the next project.
- Share the lessons. Sharing lessons learned from the implementation exercise will create greater efficiency and profitability for the next event.
The goal is to progressively narrow the S-T Gap to where it becomes nonexistent . . . or at least traversable across a short footbridge. Enjoy the journey!