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Employee engagement key to strategic plan's success

The best strategic plans in the world are of no value if they sit idly on the shelf without being implemented.

A process is needed to achieve that engagement of employees to do their part in the fulfillment of the organizational strategic plan.

This article assumes a sound method of developing the organization's strategic plan has been utilized and communicated to all employees.

So far, so good, but something more is needed. People are busy with their daily work and action to achieve the plan often gets a lower priority. A plan to integrate daily activities with long-term goals is needed.

Shortly after the one-page summary of the organization's strategic plan is distributed to all employees, management should meet with department heads and announce the expectation that each of them will develop a department strategic plan to outline their activities to accomplish the overall strategic plan.

The levels of these plans will vary by the size of the organization. A very large corporation may have business unit strategic plans, division strategic plans, and department strategic plans, each detailing what they are doing to help the next level above them attain their strategic plan.

A small business, even a one-person business, needs to have such an implementation plan that details the prioritized strategies, barriers to achieving those strategies, data showing present state or conditions, the objective as relates to this strategy, a measurable target, means or method to overcome the barrier, schedule and person responsible for the activity.

Again, these plans should be able to be simplified so they can be displayed on one page of paper.

Sometimes such a summary of deployment action is called a dashboard. Some of the advantages of such a dashboard system are:

n Deployment of the strategy throughout the levels of the organization from top to bottom;

n Ease of monitoring progress with a standardized process;

n Focuses on specific actions;

n Employees understand how their job responsibilities and accountabilities affect the organization's strategy.

Executive reviews are conducted by the top executive in the workplace where the people are being reviewed. The location of these reviews is important so the top executive can see first hand what is being done to implement the organization's strategy and the progress being made. A fancy presentation in a conference room will not suffice.

The reason for these reviews is to determine the extent of the achievement of the organization's strategy and to talk directly to the people making it happen in their environment.

The reviews are conducted to verify the implementation of improvement plans and to assess and improve the processes used.

The Japanese have a saying, "it is very important the top executive not get mad." It is important to not come across to the people as judgmental and harsh. There will be enough fear in the organization without the top executive confirming and adding to it.

This is a reminder that the top executive is there to understand barriers the people are having in implementing their action plans and take steps to remove the obstacles, to advise if they are straying from the intent of the strategy, and to lend affirmation and support.

During these reviews the departments explain to the top executive their plan and status of projects. They also take advantage of the opportunity to identify barriers or obstacles that are preventing further progress. This dialogue between the mid-level managers and the top executive aid the mutual trust and respect within the organization.

After the presentation by the departments, the top executive may ask questions to learn more about the events of the department. Action items and due dates may evolve for both the departments and for the top executive.

Follow up on the actions identified during the review should be made promptly, on both the actions for the department and for the top executive.

The benefits of strategy deployment go beyond the obvious of all departments doing their part to help the organization achieve its strategy. Mutual trust and respect are built between top management and mid-level management, top management stays current with the activities of the organization, and employees gain more satisfaction and pride in their jobs because they know top management is interested in them and what they are doing.

Louis Schultz, managing director of Process Management LLC, has assisted organizations worldwide with performance improvement. He currently assists area business owners as a SCORE counselor. E-mail him with questions or comments at lou@processman