The Executable Strategic Plan

How executable is your strategic plan? Top investors rank a superior strategy as the #3 thing they look for in a company … and the #1 thing they look for is superior execution.

A Strategic Plan is “executable” if it has obvious and immediate implications for every worker. For example, if a food wholesaler had a recession-fighting strategy of carrying more affordable and nutritious foods to appeal to buyers worrying about money, they would look at different choices than a competitor whose strategy was to carry more “cheap vice” foods like candy and soda. The buyers, salespeople, and marketers would all be making different choices each day — one looking for local growers of fresh produce, and the other for cheap sources of sugar.

The key element is to remember that a true “business strategy” is more than an intention, position, slogan or idea — it’s a statement of belief about cause and effect, and it entails some risk. It directs us to take some actions and avoid others. (The word “strategy” has been debased by over-use. We use it here in its strongest form.)

So a true business strategy for a medical clinic might be to cut costs by reducing base pay to a lower base plus monthly profit sharing, while increasing marketing by sending the practitioners out to hold free seminars at the mall. That’s risky — will staff leave when facing a riskier pay scheme? Will practitioners be able to draw in new business from seminars at a mall?

So, how can you tell if your strategy is executable? An easy way to tell is by creating a Balanced Scorecard to track the execution of your plan. For each major element of your Strategic Plan, set numerical Goals and Objectives. Then, set targets for each month. Use the Balanced Scorecard to track how far you’ve come in executing your strategic plan: percentage of employees who have accepted the new pay plan, and number of marketing hours vs. number of new patients attracted.

Lay out the timeline. How many months will it take to get new patients in the door? You may need to market for three months solid before you see the new clients begin to show up in big numbers. If so, your Marketing Hours and New Customers entries on your Scorecard will look like this:


Jan 80 0
Feb 80 5
Mar 80 10
Apr 80 20

This sort of slow increase is very common, and when you anticipate it in your scorecard, you keep morale high. If your marketers were expecting big results after a week at the mall, and you got these results above, they’d be demoralized. “This doesn’t work,” they’d say. “Let’s try something else.”

By showing them a slow ramp-up, you’re preparing them for a longer effort. And by recognizing their short term accomplishments by counting their hours, you help them focus on each day’s work. One foot in front of the other. Slow and steady wins the race.

If the Scorecard is easy to understand and follow, you’re in good shape. Test that by showing it to a brighter-than-average middle school student or an average high schooler. If they can grasp it easily, you’re ready to use it with your employees, investors, business partners, suppliers and key customers. If it’s hard to understand, rebuild the Scorecard, or maybe even look at revising the Strategic Plan.

One client describes their Scorecard this way:
“It is amazing what the numbers tell us about the business. It is like feeling a patient’s pulse.”

You need to know the pulse of your business. Email us for a free conversation on setting up your own Balanced Scorecard.

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