Strategy Execution is overly complex, but it needn’t be. Simplifying the process with high-quality, concise action plans built around strategic points of impact is what every organization should practice, but what does that mean and how can you do this? Read on to find out.
Written by: James Milsom, Head of Marketing
Complexity has become synonymous with Strategy Execution Management, it would seem. If you read through academic and professional advice in the ether, one would be led to the conclusion that only the very few intellectual superiors can be successful in the realm.
Never has that held less weight.
It is our aim to inspire change within every organization. That journey must start with enlightenment that strategy and simplicity are neither mutually exclusive nor something to avoid.
In fact, with strategic plans set for three-five-year horizons, annual breakthroughs and improvement priorities set, even with effective implementation you would be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed as to where to begin.
The ingredient to moving forward is the strategic point of impact. It is narrowing your focus to allow for brevity over depth across your organization.
Getting your processes set in place and executing effectively, turning year one breakthroughs into daily management starts with a high-quality action plan.
This is how your business can create an optimized, effective plan to turn strategy into reality.
Reducing goal cascade complexity
It's all too easy at the beginning to be over complicated with your plan.
There is a tendency to create multiple levels of plans because, by default, you want to follow the organization chart and ensure that every level is covered off.
However, this is not the correct approach for your initial foray into this approach to Strategy Execution.
Finding the point of impact
The answer is to find your strategic point of impact.
The point of impact is tantamount to where the root causes of your underperformance in areas of improvement lay.
Indeed, this is where the change will take place.
Layers of cascade
There is typically a three-level cascade to consider in the most effective strategy deployments - corporate / top level, beneath that at a plant / vision level and then finally the root cause level.
1) Corporate level
The corporate level is where the CEO and their C-suite team create and convert the three-five year strategy into improvement priorities, which will in turn be deployed across the business.
2) Plant level
The second level may be a plant, a product, a segment or geographic area which takes the first level's strategy and implements.
3) Sub-plant level
The third level, and perhaps maximum depth you should reach, is a department or sub-plant where the execution occurs.
And remember, just because your organization has six layers, this doesn't correlate to needing six layers of Hoshin plans. Hoshin fatigue will set in when the administrative burden outweighs the gains to be made.
What your action plans should look like
Before you can measure the different improvement priorities you must define the actions needed to realize the breakthrough performance expected.
That begins with your action plan.
- A description of the Improvement Priority
- A description of the Target To Improve
- A description of the route to achieving the priority
- An overview of resources involved, including budget
- A Gantt chart of key activities, owners, and the projected impact of each activity on the lagging metric
- Any leading metrics that will be used to measure early progress.
You should create an action plan for every improvement priority at the identified point of impact.
Where should your action plan start?
With your strategy and objective set, achieving breakthrough levels of performance can be daunting, if not anxiety inducing.
However, the action plan is your home plate. It helps you to set out, with structure, what you are going to achieve.
But where do you start?
If you know the improvement priority but are unsure of how you can achieve the results expected of you, this is normal.
Set out to complete a Kaizen event.
Kaizen events and action plans
Kaizen events are a series of five-day sessions built around processes and understanding the blockers and drivers of overcoming issues surrounding this.
At the beginning of the year, with your priorities set, you should map out your value stream with your stakeholders.
Indeed, it can be challenging, but by looking at your value stream, that being the systematic process of delivering a product / service to your customer, you’ll be able to monitor and implement changes to drive success.
Your value stream analysis will present opportunities that you can then run kaizen events on (or kaizen bursts) to build out actions to take – these will be added to your action plan.
The kaizen event serves to demonstrate to your stakeholders a top-level view of the processes targeted for improvement, how their performance impacts the achievement of the breakthrough objective and enables you to create a series of sub-actions from this.
It is, in essence, a pre-requisite to a successful action plan.
Once you have identified opportunities to improve the process, you have clear, top action events to add to your action plan.
Navigating through the action plan
Moving through the action plan should be simple with your improvement priority set.
Here is an example of how it would be completed for a marketing division.
My target is to grow our market share in wearables from 12.3% to 19%.
In the actions column, I will confirm what must be done to achieve this priority. This could be:
- Commission market research into sentiment and buying habits
- Analyze and produce recommendations from research
- Communicate and identify new messaging and point of sale tactics to affected teams in a trial location
- Create a new reporting dashboard in PowerBI to monitor performance
- Conduct mid-term market research to gauge impact of activity on our sentiment
- Adjust messaging and point of sale tactics accordingly.
- Roll out to other target locations.
I will then detail who owns each action:
- Commission market research into sentiment and buying habits CMO
- Analyze and produce recommendations from research Head of Product Marketing
- Communicate and identify new messaging and point of sale tactics to affected teams in a trial location Product Marketing Manager
- Create a new reporting dashboard in PowerBI to monitor performance Digital Marketing Manager
- Conduct mid-term market research to gauge impact of activity on our sentiment Product Marketing Manager
- Adjust messaging and point of sale tactics accordingly. Head of Product Marketing
- Roll out to other target locations. Product Marketing Manager
I will then complete a Gantt chart to say when each of these actions must be completed.
The last two columns, status (red or green – completed or not completed) and impact are mandatory and are needed to be able to review performance.
The colour coded statuses help you to quickly identify areas of slippage and implement countermeasures.
It is important to note that your culture must support the effective identification and addressing of slippage.
The impact column looks at the unit of measurement which will reflect success. Here that would be a percentage rate of market share.
Here you will show the progress of each action to delivering your improvement priority and, in turn, the breakthrough objective.
Without impact you cannot see how far along in your journey you have come. And without status you will struggle to know what you’ve achieved and when you’ve done it.
Tips for optimizing your action plan
As you may imagine, an action plan can take on a life of its own.
Much like the debate of how far to go in terms of your deployment plans within your organization, it is best to consider these tips for ensuring your plan is of the greatest efficacy:
- It should be long enough to track progress on a weekly basis
- You must include key actions and where Kaizen events are required to identifying sub-root causes and their countermeasures (and your measurement of those)
- Keep it brief and to the point.
Measuring the rate of improvement with bowling charts
With the action plan, kaizen events and targets to improve set, measuring success of delivery, operationally, is done through a bowling chart.
Here you break down your target to improve into monthly segments.
By December you should aim to deliver the entire weight of the breakthrough objective.
Making the complex simpler
The point of impact, action plan, value stream and kaizen events are your toolkit for guiding effective Strategy Execution.
When you take in the full breadth of the above advice, soon the desire to performance more than three layers of Hoshin plans becomes unimaginable.
While Hoshin does produce remarkable results, it is by managing expectations and engagement that these results can come or go.
Make a strategy that is too complex and trying to be too much at once, you’ll likely fail.
Craft an action plan that is measured and well thought through and you’ll remove the difficulties of Strategy Execution and, in turn, let you focus only on the points of impact which will make a difference in your performance.
And, after all, isn’t that the purpose of Strategy Exectution – making a step-change in your performance that leads to real difference?
It’s time to keep things simple.
Learn more about Strategy Execution Management
Click here to learn more about the Japanese Strategy Execution method of Hoshin Kanri – or take a look at these content recommendations:
- 9 challenges leaders face with continuous improvement: Whether you’re deploying your first improvement project or running an entire change portfolio, there are challenges that every leader is going to face. These are the 9 challenges that stand in the way of your success.
- 4 tips to successfully facilitating your Kaizen event: Channel the excitement and overcome apprehension when it comes to running Kaizen events with our 4 tips to making you a master workshop host.
- Download our Hoshin Kanri eBook: Read how Hoshin Kanri is supporting organizations to drive great business results, how two businesses have used the methodology to build their business systems, case studies and more.
About the author
James Milsom is Head of Marketing at i-nexus. James has wide-ranging experience of markets such as telecommunications, energy, education and software.
As Head of Marketing, his drive is to raise awareness and understanding of the challenges facing enterprises in delivering strategic objectives and transformation amidst changing markets and the obstacles traditional tools and methods present leaders.
If you’d like to talk more about Strategy Execution, reach out to James on firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with him on LinkedIn for the latest insights.