Is Strategy Actually Driving What Your Institution Does?
October 30, 2019
The following blog post was written by c. myers and originally published by CUES on October 7, 2019.
If it is, you’ll successfully implement your plan.
Is strategy or implementation more important? Yes! That’s a slightly nonsensical way of saying that these two components are so critical and dependent upon each other that both must be successful for your well-crafted plan to become a reality. For that to happen, strategy and implementation must be driven from the same level within the organization.
Even organizations that are good at execution and consistently get projects done on time can find that they are not moving toward their strategic goals as planned. The missing link is strategic implementation. Strategic implementation means that the strategy drives what the institution does and how it gets done, which in turn results in successful strategic implementation.
This isn’t a matter of simply choosing projects that support the strategic plan. That’s a given. Taking strategic implementation to the next level requires the team to keep strategy in sight at all times. For example, too often we hear that new systems have been put in place but aren’t delivering as anticipated. This could be the result of the credit union focusing on getting the system in place rather than implementing it in such a way as to further the strategy. A newly launched loan origination system that does not result in the desired strategy of a simpler member experience would fall into this category. The strategy can get lost when it is not the driving force behind decisions made every step of the way.
Organizations that are successful at strategic implementation drive it from the C-suite—just like strategic planning. It starts with clarity and alignment on the strategy. Everyone in the C-Suite must be on the same page. No silos are allowed. Each person must understand and be able to communicate all aspects of the strategy and the whys behind it, even if they are not directly responsible. It’s important that the entire team uses consistent messaging while communicating. This usually requires deep discussions at regular intervals that focus on the strategy.
C-suite leaders must also achieve clarity and alignment within each of their areas. This requires skilled vertical communication from the leaders to their team on the strategy and the whys behind it. Again, clarity and alignment are achieved through regular discussion. The goal is to continuously connect everyday decisions and actions with strategy. In the loan origination system example, the team members would recognize early on that, while the system might be on track for launch, it is not on track to accomplish the strategic objective.
Once strategic clarity and alignment are gained, strong project management processes play a key role in the success. Project portfolio management is another area where the C-suite needs a high-level, non-siloed view of strategic projects in order to understand how components interact so resources can be strategically allocated, especially when the unexpected comes along. Strong project management that prioritizes strategy at the individual project level is a must.
Successful strategic implementation begins by elevating it to the same level as strategic planning. When the strategy is kept top-of-mind and effectively communicated from the C-suite through management and beyond, it becomes a powerful part of everyday conversations and is used to drive better decisions and actions. Leaders within an organization that are experts at strategic implementation ensure their strategies become reality so they can be positioned for the future.