In the course of traveling the country and sharing ideas with hundreds of organizational leaders each year, one thing I constantly hammer home is the value of planning.
Fail to plan? Plan to fail!
Happily, many managers are getting the message. But sadly, too many of the strategic and operational plans we see rolled out to great fanfare end up used only minimally and quickly forgotten, just another dusty notebook on everyone’s office shelf—buried in the binder graveyard.
How can you keep the excitement of your unveiling of a new organizational plan alive and growing, and ensure that it becomes fully integrated into all aspects of your institutional culture? Here are “Five C’s” to help your plan become adopted, embraced and effective.
Following your roll-out, don’t assume your employees have taken their copies home and are reading them each evening after dinner. Follow up with them soon and often, in small groups or one-on-one, with messaging that reinforces the key elements of your plan.
Better yet, act immediately on initiatives and strategies that are YOUR responsibility as management—(note: if there aren’t any, you’ve got bigger problems!)—and report on your progress. That way you not only keep the plan center-stage, but model its adoption through your example.
Work with your direct reports to quickly integrate key actionable items and language into their own work plans, meeting agendas, and performance reviews.
One common factor among failed plans is a disconnect between what you seek to do and how your day-to-day operation actually works. It is critical that the plan be based on reality to the extent that employees can see themselves and their work in it—help them infuse new or updated processes into their individual workflows.
Tie this in with Step #2—after coordinating activities, make sure they are calendared, both for your staff and yourself, so that progress can be tracked. Program reminders and ticklers into your project management system, and augment them with more general prompts, like “did the plan move forward today/this week/this month?”
As a leader, employee engagement with the new plan needs to be a constant on your to-do list. Getting to it “when you have time” is never going to work—unless you have someone in your organization in charge of “handing out free time.”
When the first three tips reveal challenges in the institutional engagement surrounding implementation of the plan, take it seriously. If you’re starting to drift into the slow lane, you’re almost off the road! Put on your “Coaching Hat” and take the wheel.
This is the time for a few phone calls, or some “management by wandering“—not just email check-ins—to engage your team in a little face time. This not only helps to get them back on track, but shows that you’re taking it seriously yourself.
It’s Management 101, but don’t forget top celebrate your successes. When goals connected to the new plan are achieved—like new systems put into place, or new processes yielding positive results—break out the paper plates and take a few moments to relax and share the moment with everybody. (And make sure those directly responsible for the success you’re seeing get the biggest slice!)
Bottom line: successful implementation of your organizational plan won’t just happen. You spent a lot of time creating it—now invest a little time and effort into bringing it to life!
Grow Big or Go Home!