Growing Great Companies


Plan to Succeed

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Make sure everyone understands and buys into your strategic plan.

To be meaningful, your strategic plan must be endorsed by your entire workforce. But before they support it, they must first understand it. Unfortunately, too many senior executives believe that once they’ve uttered the “magic words” of their strategic plan, everyone automatically understands them. Furthermore, these executives also believe that just because they’ve shared their strategic directives, everyone in the organization supports their plans. While junior executives and department managers may nod their heads in agreement, they are quite likely to ignore everything that was said, and go back to business as usual.

Garnering support for your strategic plan is not simple. Countless surveys support Bruce Katcher’s, President of Discovery Surveys, statement that “only 53% of employees believe the information they receive from senior management.” Given this harsh reality, how do you bridge the gap between your leader’s strategic vision, and what your employees really believe?

Jack Welch would say that communication is the key. During his tenure as CEO of GE, he personally facilitated work sessions in his now famous “pit” to ensure everyone understood what was being communicated. He believed that “good communication is simply everyone having the same set of facts,” and he conducted business accordingly.

Use Jack Welch’s definition of communication when you share your strategic plan. Make sure you present it in language that all your employees – from customer service to sales to senior management – can understand. Explain to employees how their day-to-day responsibilities can help the company achieve its strategic goals, and you will gain the support you need.

Consistently execute your plan.

Finally, no plan has real meaning unless it is properly executed. Your leaders must have the courage to “pull the trigger” and implement what you’ve planned. Sometimes this requires your key executives to take a calculated risk – even without all of the desired information.

Imagine, if you will, the tremendous planning that had to be involved in the Normandy Invasion during World War II. Think of how General Eisenhower must have felt on the planned day of invasion, when he received word that the weather had turned bad, making the landings even more dangerous. He waited one day. Then, after being advised of a slight improvement in weather conditions, he said simply, “O.K., we’ll go.” Over 156,000 allied troops were sent to free Europe from the Nazis. Fortunately, when it was needed, the free world had a leader who could execute decisively.

Likewise, once your strategic plan is created, you must implement it. As William Pollard, Chairman of Service Master, Fortune Magazine’s number one rated service company in America, has said, “It is not always what we know or analyze before we make a decision that makes it a good decision. It is what we do after we make the decision to implement and execute that makes it a good decision.”

Applying the Lessons

So, what are the common bonds among the messages of these legendary leaders? They each took the time to develop their own plans. Although they shared similar philosophies, they did not blindly apply someone else’s plan. Each ensured that the essence of his plan was communicated and understood throughout the company. And, finally, these leaders implemented and executed decisively.

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