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Planning without execution is a waste

People come up with great new ideas, often spending countless hours creating and re-creating detailed business and strategic plans. Creativity is a valuable trait but the lack of ability to follow through on well thought out plans is the downfall of many business owners, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, etc. It has been estimated that as many as 80 percent of organizations who put elaborate plans and strategies together fail to follow through.

Three important keys to success include people, strategy and operations, with people the primary area. People are crucial to making decisions, interpreting reports, prognosticating on the future, monitoring  changing market situations and translating strategies into operational realities.

Execution is even a more disciplined process than planning. Setting goals may not be easy but a well laid out planning process with a detailed approach to execution is vital to make strategies work. 

Management often spends inordinate amounts of time in the weeds, being swept up in putting out fires, and thereby neglecting the action oriented execution necessary. Executives need to connect their strategies to the company’s goals but further to goals of individual employees.   

Following are some suggestions to help in the implementation process.

1. Set clearly defined priorities — Tackle one goal at a time by prioritizing initiatives. Having too many priorities can become problematic by not focusing on one at a time.

2. Monitor results —  Collect and analyze data, staying on top of results. Establish key performance indicators that are measurable and can be monitored on an ongoing basis. Determine processes that don’t work and concentrate on those that work. Enhance them to boost performance.

3. Stay in sync with the vision — Staff members need to be kept informed by meeting and other communications regularly. It is important for all involved to stay up to date. It doesn’t have to be through formal meetings but meetings which are productive and informative ensuring everyone is on the same page are very important to the process. A meeting should always include reports of accomplishments, decisions made, who is responsible for delivery and deadlines.

4. Evaluate progress — All those employees who are involved, management, team members, etc.  should report at least on a monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the project, to evaluate progress and determine if changes are required. Periodic strategy meetings should discuss strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, a SWOT analysis. An analysis of any changes within the organization, industry trends and the economy should be reviewed. An action plan to exploit strengths and opportunities while mitigating weaknesses and threats should be the main order of business.

Ensure that the entire team signs on to the carrying out of the vision. The vision should state how to build a valuable business. 

A great vision should:

• Be clear and concise, understandable to a broad constituency.

• Be inspiring and motivational to those charged with executing it.

• Express the core values and culture of the organization.

Once the plan is developed and communicated it takes a passionate ownership of the vision and a committed drive to completion. Don’t let the work stop with the planning process. Follow it up with execution for success. Thomas Edison said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing bvaughnfurlow@gmail.com.