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Overview of implementing strategy

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Once your strategic plan has been agreed, you need to implement it.

Planning the next steps in strategy

Your strategy doesn’t end with the strategic plan and, if you haven’t already included this as part of the strategic planning process, you will now need to plan implementation. Depending on the size of your group or organisation, your strategic plan needs to be detailed into more operational, team and individual plans.

For the strategic plan to become reality it needs to be clear exactly who needs to do what and by when, so each plan needs:

  • objectives
  • measures
  • timescales
  • who will be responsible.

Strategy and structure

It has been said that any organisation can only achieve what its structure will allow it to achieve. So if you are in an organisation which has a clear hierarchy with many levels between staff and requires staff to ask permission several levels up to be able to do something, then the organisation will not allow creativity and innovation.

When implementing your strategy think about whether your structure will allow and encourage people to achieve the strategic objectives.

You could restructure your organisation around the strategic objectives, so for example, with one team responsible for each objective. 

Or you might want to consider a matrix form of management whereby as well as delivering on their functional areas of work, staff members need to contribute to at least one strategic objective.


Function Area Strategic Objective Service Delivery Education Fundraising
To improve campaigning Caroline Ruth Denise
To increase earned income Fiona Ian Atul
To expand services in Wales Jenny Mary Sue

What is most important is that it is clear who is taking responsibility, who is going to ensure that the strategic objective happens and will report back on progress.    

What gets measured gets done

It is generally true that the activities which people get measured by are the ones on which they tend to focus. Therefore, ensure that objectives and measures relevant to the strategic objectives are included in all the staff work plans. 

What is seen to be rewarded…

It is also true, however, that people will detect less obvious signals about what is desirable behaviour and respond accordingly. So, for example, people may perform well and work hard and start to make progress towards their objectives but if this progress isn’t acknowledged let alone rewarded then they will probably lose motivation.

If at the same time they see individuals who don’t appear to make much progress with their objectives but who do get bonuses and promotions then they are likely to slow down their hard work too.

Key to implementing a strategy is to develop a reward system which recognises contribution to the strategy. This doesn’t need huge bonuses, but acknowledging that people have worked hard and are making progress is vitally important to strategic success.

Leaders supporting strategy

Organisations are shadows of their leaders. 

As with reward, staff tend to consciously or unconsciously note the behaviour of senior staff and will regard this as what they need to do to be successful. It is therefore essential that all the senior team in your organisation are visibly supporting the strategy.

Organisational culture

The organisational iceberg is a well known analogy for understanding organisational culture. The idea is that above the surface you have all those aspects of organisational life which are tangible and explicit. 

Under the surface however, there are all those aspects of organisational life which are not tangible and not spoken about, but which have huge implications on an organisation’s ability to achieve its objectives. Here you will have aspects such as beliefs, attitudes, culture and assumptions.

Strategic plans and business plans are generally written down and explicit. They are upfront statements of what the organisation stands for and wishes to achieve. However, underneath the surface whether the organisation is successful in achieving its strategy will depend on whether the culture, beliefs and attitudes are also supporting the strategy.  

So in developing and implementing strategy ensure it is supporting and supported by structure and culture.

Useful links

  • If you're interested in the experience of others trying to build links between strategy and the day to day operation, why not look at the interview with Steve Vaid, the former chief executive of King's College Students' Union. Steve outlines his approach and offers examples of the KCLSU strategy tree and operating plan.
Page last edited Jul 10, 2017
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