The considerable work involved in getting to the action plan phase is brought to fruition as plans are implemented. All the investment in research, consultation and planning is ideally repaid in a streamlined and straightforward implementation. At this stage organisational commitment needs to be reinforced by staff engagement and buy-in to prioritise the achievement of strategic objectives.
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Set targets, standards and an implementation process
The planning process should not only provide a path forward but also address the plan’s implementation.
Clearly defining targets and performance standards assist the implementation process and can help to establish confidence in the staff charged with implementing the plan that they know what is expected of them in detail.
Regardless of the subject matter of strategy the implementation process may detail the need for:
- Detailed and ongoing planning sessions that include relevant staff and management
- Trialling the strategy through limited business applications
- Monitoring and reviewing processes to evaluate the strategy and adjust the implementation process appropriately
- Ongoing regular forecasting and targeted sessions with key stakeholders to review new information and adjust the strategy and its implementation accordingly
- Staff involvement in the process, including specific skills development, as appropriate
- Marketing activities to target and support any change
- The development of strategic alliances and/or networks such as suppliers
Seeking regular feedback from stakeholders to include them in the process and ensure their ownership of the strategy
In many cases project management principles may be required to drive and track the implementation phase and act as a central point of contact for communication, monitoring and review.
The implementation of Action Plans is a key outcome of the strategic planning process. Without implementation, strategic planning is an interesting exercise that leads nowhere. Major issues relating to the implementation of Action Plans are:
An effective planning process which:
- Is well-structured, detailed and collaborative.
- Results in comprehensive, detailed, realistic Action Plans.
Impetus to action which ensures:
- Action Plans are really implemented.
- The implementation phase is monitored and evaluated to guide future planning and development.
Monitoring and follow-up which ensures:
- Action Plans can be modified if they are proving impractical or if the situation changes.
- Energy level and enthusiasm for implementation continues rather than being depleted and dying away.
Effective implementation of Action Plans requires appropriate leadership, constructive communication processes and an agreed system of accountability. Here are some issues to consider before commencing the implementation phase:
How will the implementation phase commence?
- Have you discussed and agreed on the very first steps to be taken, when they will be taken and who is responsible for initiating action?
- Have you identified the need to support and recognise those who are taking those first steps? Who will do that?
- Have you agreed on a short-term mechanism for reporting progress? What is it?
How will the implementation phase be supported to ensure it is ongoing?
- Do your Action Plans include provision of supportive feedback? Who will provide it? When? How?
- Do you have a way of quickly identifying problems to avoid bogging down the implementation process?
How will you address problems during implementation?
- Who has responsibility for problem-solving?
- Have you identified a decision-making process for changes to Action Plans or strategies?
- What will you do if the process breaks down?
It is worth considering these questions before you start; in order to short-circuit as many issues as possible.
There are costs associated with implementing Strategic Plans and you need to maximise returns to make the process worthwhile.
When you implement Action Plans, you are in fact bringing about a change in the workplace.
Make communications compelling
By the time it comes to implementing action plans to achieve strategic objectives in a retail context it is safe to assume everyone is on board right?
Not necessarily so…
Whilst the development phase of action plans related to your area of business may be all encompassing for you and the stakeholders you have consulted with, others in the business will have other priorities vying for their attention and commitment.
There may also be hidden agendas, objections and resistance in certain stakeholders that only arise during the implementation phase. It is for these reasons that a comprehensive and compelling strategy needs to be employed to drive communication throughout implementation.
In devising the communication strategy certain questions need to be answered:
- Who is the audience
- Should the audience be segmented for different communications
- What do we need them to know
- What do they already know
- What are their likely areas of resistance
- In which areas are they likely to be negatively impacted during the implementation phase
- What support may they require at different times
- What recognition may they appreciate
Tailoring communications to the audience and what they need to ensure the implementation phase is successful helps build engagement and increases the likelihood of staff expending discretionary effort to assist in the achievement of objectives.
Framing communications in such a way as to engender solidarity and team cohesiveness can also go a long way to encouraging positive attitude toward the initiative and inspiring achievement.
About ARA Retail Institute
ARA Retail Institute is Australia’s leading retail training provider for both accredited and non-accredited learning programs. For more information, please visit: www.retailinstitute.org.au