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Three Steps to Give Your Strategic Plan Traction

We all agree Strategic Planning is a critical part of a company's success. All too often, however, strategic plans stall before they ever make it to execution 'or they gradually lose momentum. The organization is then left in a vulnerable and uncomfortable position of continuing to go about its business with good intentions but no focused direction or aligned action. Move intention into action using this three step remedy.

Step 1. Accountability 'Get a grip on Results

Get a grip on results by having each member clearly articulate the end results rather than just activities. We use an Accountability Agreement to accomplish this (see An Accountability Agreement defines the business outcomes an individual is promising to deliver, and outlines the resources and support that he or she needs from others in order to deliver these results. An Accountability Agreement is broken down into seven areas:

Business Focus Statement 'Understand your company and your role within it.

No employee should sit on the sidelines as a casual observer of an organization's success. This area focuses on the business of the company and the unique value each member brings to the organization. In short, why does the job exist and what do you bring to the table? This is then related to the role each person plays in the execution of the strategic plan.

Operational Accountabilities 'Outline the end results you are accountable for achieving.

The strategic plan serves as a template to outline who is accountable for bringing about various end results of the strategic plan. Focusing Accountability for various parts of the strategic plan that the individual can significantly influence and achieve is the key to clearly articulating who is accountable for producing specific end-results.

Leadership Accountabilities 'Set the tone and culture.

Integrating the leadership style into your strategic plan sets a tone throughout the organization. Leaders successfully execute the plan by focusing on the people side of their role and how they expect people to work together. Leadership accountabilities set the tone for the leadership style, and introduces the notion that "leaders model the way".

Goals- Your road markers.

Goals are specific milestones that are derived directly from your accountabilities. Goals can be described as SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Based.

Support Requirements- Identify the support and resources you need.

Success in organizations demands a significant level of teamwork and reciprocity. The individual is accountable for achieving end results in a context of mutual support. No one gets anything done alone. The alignment meeting described below creates a conversation where this interdependence is made visible and negotiated.

Sustainment Plan- Plan to keep it alive.

This describes how to keep accountabilities up-to-date and focused on business results as circumstances change. As things change, agreements must be adapted, renewed and revitalized.

Positive Consequences

A job is a business bargain between an individual and an organization. To get beyond the parent/child or master/servant relationship, effective individuals bargain for what they want, and can realistically expect, through a fair and reasonable exchange.

Step 2: Alignment- Align like a laser

When all members of a workgroup have completed their individual Accountability Agreements as described above, hold an alignment meeting. This process makes difficult issues discussable. Gaps and overlaps in individual accountabilities and goals are resolved and interdependencies and mutual support is agreed upon. At the end of an alignment meeting you can revise Accountability Agreements and realign on a regular basis as circumstances change or memories of agreements fade.

Gaining traction for your strategic plan ideally begins with your senior management team. Once you've identified who's accountable, made commitments and aligned this senior group, you can then cascade it down a level at a time. The process of cascading continues until all employees understand what results they are expected to produce and how they are aligned interdependently with the rest of the company.

Step 3: Achievement
Individuals usually experience immediate value from the clarity of their business bargain provided by this process. The Alignment of individuals who know what is expected of them and who know what they want in return creates a powerful force for corporate success.

About the Accountability/Alignment Process:

The process we've outlined above has been consistently successful with our clients. We've made this process available to the public through our books Accountability: getting a grip on results, and Aligned like a laser, and have recently made our online tool (AlignOnline) available to organizations and consultants who wish to use it in their consulting practice. Visit us at for more articles on Strategic Planning, Accountability, and Alignment and information on our books and online Accountability tool.

About the Author

Shaun Murphy, Ph.D. and Bruce Klatt, M.A. are senior partners in Murphy Klatt Consulting and authors of Aligned Like a Laser (2004) and Accountability: Getting a Grip on Results (1997). For more information please go to or try their online Accountability Alignment tool at


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