How many times have we heard someone say, “Let’s develop a strategy to do ________.”? But what does that really mean? If you Google the definition of strategy, it’s “a method or plan chosen to bring about a desire future, such as the achievement of a goal or solution to a problem.” For example, organizations might have mobile strategies, representing a plan to add mobile capabilities to the business.
Technically speaking, strategies could be considered different from policies, which is defined as a definite course of action. Another difference between strategies and policies could be how often people think about or refer to it. For example, a strategy might not be mentioned every day, whereas a policy could be thought about regularly.
In some organizations, a point of differentiation between strategy and policy involves who initiated the idea. Strategies might be considered more of a senior management plan versus policies which are originated at an operations level.
Here’s a common example:
An organization realizes they need to get more accomplished with fewer resources. It’s good for productivity and the bottom-line. So, they decide to create a self-service strategy. This might include customer options like e-commerce, but for human resources, it involves the implementation of employee self-service.
In this scenario, HR’s strategy is to implement a shared services delivery model.
In order to accomplish this goal, HR will need to create policies that define the best way to use the self-services model. Those policies will include what tasks employees are expected to do and when as well as HR’s responsibilities. Both the strategy and the policies are important for goal achievement.
3 Keys to Successful Strategy Implementation
After developing your strategy, executing it well is critical. A great strategy that is executed poorly will lead to less than desired results. Scott Edinger, co-author of “The Inspiring Leader: Unlocking the Secrets of How Extraordinary Leaders Motivate", says there are three key activities to successful strategy implementation. He calls them the 3 C’s: clarity, communication, and cascade.
Communication means making sure that everyone in the organization knows the strategy. Strategies need to be shared with everyone in the organization. Employee engagement can occur when employees understand how their work aligns with strategy.
Clarity means making sure your strategy is understood at every level in the organization. In order to get the full benefit of communication, the strategy needs to be communicated in multiple ways so everyone comprehends it.
Cascade refers to the tactical steps that employees will take to accomplish the strategy. This is the “how” part of the strategy and the most visible part of implementation.
Problems with Strategy Implementation
Once implementation begins, it’s very possible that challenges will occur – even when we try to think of all the obstacles beforehand. When faced with a strategy challenge, use the three C’s to brainstorm the cause and potential solutions. You can ask the following questions:
Why does the strategy exist (purpose)? This aligns with communication. Strategies shouldn’t be a secret. Their purpose needs to be known throughout the organization.
Do people understand it (planning)? If employees don’t have clarity with the strategy, then they don’t know how to plan their work … and ultimately accomplish the goal.
Are people committed to it? When it comes to cascading the steps for success, it’s important that everyone buys into those steps.
Strategies are important; they make our businesses successful. But strategies cannot stand on their own. They need solid implementation plans, stakeholder buy-in at every level and well-crafted policies to support them.
Sharlyn Lauby is the HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc., a South Florida based training and human resources consulting firm focused on helping companies retain and engage talent.
Sharlyn sees human resources as a strategic partner - the marketing department for a company’s internal clients rather as administrative. During her 20+ years in the profession, she has earned a reputation for bringing business solutions to reality.
Prior to starting ITM Group, Sharlyn was vice president of human resources for Right Management Consultants, one of the world’s largest organizational consulting firms. She has designed and implemented highly successful programs for employee retention, internal and external customer satisfaction, and leadership development. Publications such as Reuters, The New York Times, ABC News, TODAY, Readers Digest, Men’s Health and The Wall Street Journal have sought out her expertise on topics related to human resources and workplace issues.