Many organizations find developing a strategy a difficult
and time consuming process, one that they’re so exhausted by they just hope
that it will implement itself. If you’re having trouble
getting your team to execute on its strategy then you may need to lay out the
path in more detail than you already have. Here’s how.

Understanding strategy

In most organizations, strategy is just a rough idea of
where the organization wants to go. It’s an ideal view devoid of the
distractions that the real world brings. Understanding that a strategy isn’t
real helps to illuminate the fact that there’s a gap between the current
reality and the new vision.

Never was this as true as it was at the Fishburn
Group. The Fishburn Group had been in the recycling
industry for years but recognized the change that was sweeping the nation as
technology began to be cycled through organizations at an ever increasing pace.
They were becoming so overwhelmed with material that they couldn’t find a home
for it.

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The bright young son of the owner realized that the key to
success in the organization was a new inventory management system — one that
understood that even the same product had a widely varying value and could have
a variety of uses. He visualized an inventory system that leveraged barcode
labels and standard warehouse positions for material. He saw that if he was
able to get control of what he had in his warehouse he could move several times
the amount of material that he currently was moving and in doing so grow the
business not just in volume but also in profitability.

Bringing a plan

Once a strategy is formed there’s more to do than just tell
everyone what it is and wait for it to happen. Each person’s roll must be laid
out and the pieces put together so that the destination can be reached. Converting
the strategy into a set of steps that can be followed is often a challenging
task for any organization. The strategies are easy to buy into. The effort
involved with reaching the strategies isn’t always as easy to sell.

At the Fishburn Group there was
always a lot to do. It always seemed like there was another load of material to
inspect, another customer to call, and another employee to work with. However,
the owner’s son made time to research how to produce barcodes for the material;
he even initiated a warehouse clean up task to help define more standardized
warehouse locations. It seemed as if the plan was taking shape.

Making the plan understandable

The problem with converting a strategy to a plan is that the
strategy is understandable to those who are expected to help make the
transformation. A strategy describes the neat details of the vision without the
imperfections of reality. A plan must, necessarily, dwell in reality where the
details can often get in the way of understanding but must be equally

Creating a plan that changes the way people work requires
that the plan be detailed enough that it immediately makes sense and can be
implemented. Making the plan understandable enough so that people can execute
it, and want to execute it, is a difficult proposition. It requires the
persistence to develop the steps to the plan and the metrics to monitor the
plan to ensure that it hasn’t gotten off track.

At the Fishburn Group, this is
where the great vision fell apart. Several parts of the organization made
progress towards organizing the material and towards recording the material as
it entered the building. However, the shipping department had never understood
how it impacted them so they would ship out inventory without recording where
it came from or what its item tracking number was. The loading dock started
placing material in the areas that had been designated but would occasionally
put a pallet of material in a spot without recording it. They didn’t understand
how to cope with times when the material came in faster than they could process

The result is that the Fishburn
Group has fallen back into the disorganized chaos that they’d always had. Material
is handled in a “what you see is what you have” kind of mentality where the
sales folks have to walk the warehouse to find material that they can sell
rather than reviewing a database and posting up the material they know they
have. Throughput is roughly the same as it was five years ago when the vision
was conceived.

The plan wasn’t detailed and specific enough to be
understood by the warehouse workers on the floor or even the front office folks
who were buying and selling material.

Getting on track

If you’ve got a strategy that’s gotten off track or can’t
seem to be implemented, here are a few simple steps to put things right again.

  1. Resell
    the strategy — Go back to the organization and rally everyone behind the
    cause again. Help them understand that they need to make the strategy work
    for the organization to reach its potential.
  2. Create
    the plan — Help create the high-level plan that will help you reach the
    strategy. Identify the key areas which must work for the strategy to be
  3. Make
    the plan understandable — Have the parties responsible for each of the major
    areas of the plan create a more detailed plan,
    one that can be understood by everyone within their part of the
  4. Develop
    a monitoring plan — Set up a mechanism for monitoring progress on the plan.
    Look for places where the organization doesn’t fully understand what steps
    they must take to reach the strategy, and then educate those people.