Why Execution Makes All the Difference in Strategic Planning and Training

And why commitment is crucial when choosing a consulting firm

Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

To most people, this is a familiar adage, and it offers a valuable lesson. However, if someone really wanted to improve this man’s life, they wouldn’t just stop there. They would follow up with him to see how his fishing efforts are going, suggest different techniques, and make sure he’s actually casting the line. A strategy is necessary, but ensuring that it is executed properly is the real key to making it work.

This is especially true when running a business. You can obtain expert advice and guidance, but if you can’t figure out how to put it into action, it’s pointless. If you brought in a consulting firm to help, and you and your team were left scratching your heads and wondering what to do once the consultants were gone, that’s a problem.

The solution is to find a consultant who follows-up their advice through to execution, instituting best practices and quality control processes to make sure the changes stick. Whether initial planning sessions develop a playbook aimed at achieving goals in the next few months or the next 10 years, seeing the strategy through to implementation and analysis is what separates valuable change from wasted resources.

To ensure the plan is working, consultants should set up regular follow-up meetings with you and your team. The cadence can vary, but a typical execution plan might involve a full day at the beginning of every quarter, two days at the beginning of every year, and often a weekly meeting with the executive leadership team. That weekly meeting should be highly structured, with no wasted time.

These meetings are designed to effectively hold the team accountable, adjust the plan to reflect changes in the environment and in your company, and otherwise keep all of the stakeholders on track.

Executive development requires implementation as well

Ensuring results in an executive development program requires a similar commitment. After a multi-week course, in which the goals are identified and initial skills are developed, an executive coach should schedule another few months of regularly scheduled coaching sessions for all attendees; again, these gatherings are designed to hold people accountable for adopting the changes while also sharpening their skills further.

Total quality improvement

A project designed to improve total quality within a mid-size organization – enhancing processes, while at the same time cutting down on waste – should typically take about one week of concerted effort per target process. In addition, it’s a mistake for a consultant to re-design a process from scratch without the input of the team members who execute the current version. Doing so wastes the valuable knowledge of the team members who have daily experience with the target process, and obtaining buy-in from these employees has a significant impact on whether the new process is adopted, and how quickly. Consultants should solicit the input of these employees, obtain their support, and integrate valuable suggestions into the new iteration before creating a revised version.

And after the new process has been put into effect, regular follow-up meetings with both the team members and their executive sponsors are necessary, to make sure things are running smoothly and that any necessary adjustments are quickly executed.

Execution is the difference between success and failure

The only way to ensure successful results with any corporate change is to design strategies and processes that are embraced by the individuals who will be carrying them out, and to nurture the plan all the way through implementation. This commitment to guiding a strategy to a successful conclusion is something you should expect from a consultant. In addition to being vital for successful change, it’s also an indicator of whether any new strategic partner expects to be held accountable for their work.

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