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5 Simple Steps to Executing the Plan

It is all about execution.  Waiting over a year to see results is too long, since your chance of mid-course correction is greatly reduced.  To make the point, Harvard’s Robert Kaplan believes that less than 10% of corporate strategies are effectively executed.  Ouch!

If that is true, we are tolerant bunch.  We carefully plan in long, dedicated sessions each year or so, then draw up a series of goals, strategies, tactics, objectives, targets, or whatever we want to name them.  We hold all-company meetings where possible, and departmental meetings to roll out the new plan.

We set individual objectives and rewards to match these goals.  Then we manage day-to-day routine execution, and periodically measure the results.  Sound familiar?  This is the startegy+4_smbfdescription of a well-managed process within what should be a well-managed company.

And yet, Kaplan is close to right, whether it’s 10% or 30%, it is a minority of strategies that are effectively executed.  Why?   Here is a list to use as a guide to better execution.

[Email readers, continue here…]  Make the plan simple to understand.  Once deployed down one or more levels in the organization, like the old game of telephone, the corporate plan begins to look less like the original as each department attempts to adopt it and create departmental objectives to conform.  A complex plan stacks the deck against all but those who created it at the top.

Put someone in charge of executing the plan. That may be you, but in some companies, that requires a dedicated individual tasked with removing roadblocks, measuring success, and reporting progress.

Provide feedback loops at each critical stage of execution.  If the plan calls for increased revenues, measure output and efficiency as well as revenues.  Look for leading, not lagging indicators of change.

Make sure you provide the resources necessary to hit the plan, including money, new hire authorizations, and above all, clear instruction and delegation form the top.

Listen to complaints, suggestions and warning signs.  Respond, so that people know you are serious about execution of the plan.  Modify what is not working.  Then pivot, when necessary, to scrap part of the plan, and then rewrite it in order to meet its objectives.

If a plan has realistic goals and if you are reasonably able to provide the resources necessary to complete the plan successfully, you are way ahead of that other 90%.

But if you toss a plan out to others to execute, don’t follow through until the end, fail to measure, or to provide needed resources, then you will deserve your fate.  So take heed.  If you go to the effort to plan, go to the effort to succeed.


    It’s a glittering generality to be sure but that said – how much people want the result directly impacts activity to execute a plan – and do that effectively – especially in the
    face of inevitable problems, delays etc. Fierce motivated desire is key to producing results.

  • Michael O'Daniel

    Sounds very much like some of the basic principles of Change Management, esp. points 1, 3 and 5. It’s also very important to have active and visible sponsorship, so that all tasked with the execution receive clear and consistent messages from the leader(s) with whom the plan originated. Sponsorship cannot be outsourced.

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