It’s often said that leadership is about doing the right things, whereas management is about  doing things the right way.  By this definition leaders set the strategic direction, and managers put it into action.

And of course a strategy that isn’t implemented properly is worthless.

What’s needed is an action plan that puts the strategy into the heads, hearts, and hands of the people who will make a real difference.  This is no trivial task for a manager – turning strategy into action is one of the most challenging aspects of management.

Here are 8 key elements for creating an action plan that works, under the headings of People & Process:

Inspire People:

  • Relevance: focus on what the strategy means for your team and their daily work; prioritise projects that support the strategy.
  • Empowerment: Enable and encourage your team to take control of their part of the strategy. Build a team spirit.
  • Capability building: Identify what skills and capabilities are needed. Take the opportunity to enable your team to develop new skills.
  • Communication: translate and elaborate on the strategy for the benefit of your team and other stakeholders. Update on progress. Do this throughout the process, make it a priority at all times – even if you think you are being repetitive.

Agree Process:

  • Goals: identify a small number of critically important goals aligned to the strategy, and a timeline for achieving them.
  • Accountability: ensure individuals know what’s expected of them and agree their targets. Be transparent, ensure goals are visible to everyone.
  • Measurement: monitor progress towards goals. Identify leading indicators and actions that you and your team can control. Keep everyone updated on progress – and celebrate success.
  • Adaptability: as a military leader once said, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy” – be ready to revise your action plan as situations change, but always keeping the strategic goal in sight.

And finally: big changes in strategic direction often require a more sophisticated approach to implementation.  In such cases you may need a full change management programme and be prepared to make this recommendation to your executives.

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