“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”Robert Burns

If I could add to the quote above, I would say “…due to a lack of clearly defined, measurable targets and a dearth of accountability.” It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as nicely, but it is true nonetheless.

Too many visionaries see their grand dreams evaporate into nothing. Think about it: how much better would your business be if you had a better rate of execution? We think it could be significantly better. So, we’re sharing some ways for you to address the hindrances in turning worthwhile visions into realities.

If your organization is having trouble executing its strategy, go through the following steps to find areas you can improve upon. Don’t worry too much about what each step is named; as that isn’t really what matters. What matters is that the process described below take place in some form or another.

Step 1: Clearly define the vision

Vision identifies where you want to go. The clearer it is in terms of the description, the better. The trick here is to dream big, but also be grounded in reality by examining your current resources and the external business climate.

A vision should take into consideration your ideal scenario. What is ideal for your organization in terms of revenue, growth, and customer satisfaction – even down to getting new furniture, bigger quarters, and a fleet of vehicles. Imagining success helps get the creative juices flowing to better develop your vision.

Ready to clearly define your vision? Here are some more tips to help you develop your vision from Business News Daily.

Step 2: Identify the gaps

Evaluating current trends and inspecting present operations will show the trajectory of where you are likely to end up if no changes are made. Compare this outcome with the ideal scene in Step 1 to identify the gaps.

For instance, a sales organization might identify something like, “While our vision is to have a world-class sales team, right now we’re struggling to meet even minimum quotas.” Or “We want to be at 20 percent operating margin but are currently at 14 percent.”

Once these gaps are identified, you can begin to lay out a series of “moves” – projects and initiatives – to eliminate them and bring your organization’s performance closer to your vision.

Step 3: Develop and communicate the plan

Laying out the vision, strategy and pace for getting to the next level is one of the critical responsibilities of senior leadership. The size of the gaps and the desired pace for closing them provides the framework for setting measurable targets, usually grouped together in the form of projects.

Of utmost importance is to not only communicate what needs to be done, but why. This means infusing the primary vision developed in Step 1 into every plan and project. In this way, everyone understands what they should be working towards on a daily basis and how their contributions fit in with the overall goals.

This is how you start to get buy-in and commitment.

Step 4: Align and execute

Here is the point where the rubber meets the road, and is therefore the usual point at which plans go awry. There is a certain skill to keeping the business running while implementing change projects. Sometimes there is conflict, and the way to solve it is to fix the alignment – as friction is often caused by a disconnect between new orders and current job functions, or even by simply misaligned expectations between leaders and the boots on the ground.

Some things to check at this stage:

· Are departments, schedules, and budgets aligned for executing the project targets?

· Are senior management and employees aligned in their expectations of each other?

· Do juniors “know something we don’t” which will prevent the execution of a specific target or even an entire project? (You won’t know unless you ask them! This is part of getting aligned and preventing disasters or non-compliance down the line.)

· Does each project and target have a clearly responsible party assigned to it to ensure completion? (Do we need to hire an external accountability coach?)

We will now come to the final step, which is to judge execution in the most fair and unbiased way possible: metrics (or statistics or “the numbers” – again names are unimportant here).

Step 5: Measure and refine

The first thing to consider is that everything can be measured, but not everything should be. You have to measure the things which clearly show progress towards achieving the vision – the things that really matter. And sometimes, just one measurement by itself can give a false picture unless viewed in the proper context.

For example, “project targets accomplished” seems like a vital thing to measure, but it is meaningless unless accompanied by other metrics which measure the effectiveness and quality of the execution of those targets.

So, going back to the gap described above in Step 2 regarding the struggling sales team, a project to develop and launch a sales training program might be planned. A few things to measure:

Development phase

· Number of training modules written

· Number of fully edited training modules

Launch phase

· Number of students enrolled

· Percentage of students receiving passing grade

· Percentage of students with increased sales within 3 months

You cannot say that because there were a large number of training modules written, that the development phase is a success if they are all sitting in an editing cue. And you also cannot say that the training program is an overall success just because there are 1,000 students enrolled. If they all fail, and there is zero increase in sales, that program is a failure regardless of how busy everyone was while working on it.

So in translating vision into measurable targets, always ensure you are measuring the things which most accurately reflect that you are heading closer to achieving your vision, and not meaningless busywork.

If you’re having issues with clearly defining your vision and translating it into measurable targets, we can help. Our Execution Program is designed specifically to remedy specific weaknesses around one or two issues, and is a precursor to our full, in-depth Excellence Program. It consists of a clear assessment, followed by a strategic plan utilizing advanced software to help execute, along with coaching and leadership alignment.