Implementing a strategic change may come across as daunting and yet necessary in this current economic climate. This article seeks to address the actions managers should take when implementing a strategic change. There are 6 key steps that you can consider during the implementation process, as recommended by Harvard Business School.
Step 1: Setting well-defined goals and key performance metrics
All strategic changes should begin with an end goal in mind. A well-defined goal paves a clear direction for the team and forms a common building as well. One important aspect when setting goals is to ensure they are attainable. The definition of achieving the goal should be measured by key performance metrics identified and agreed upon by managers and team members.
A common pitfall arises when managers become overly ambitious in their goals. This negatively affects employee’s morale and may lead to team members feeling overwhelmed. Managers should reference past attempts of strategic changes to determine what is realistic, factoring time and resource constraints. It is important to look at both successful and failed attempts and check with team members when assessing the attainability of envisioned goals. Given the current volatile and uncertain economic climate, managers ought to consider hidden factors that may hinder the team’s ability to achieve the goals as well.
Step 2: Making sure members are clear with their roles and duties
Once all members are clear with the end goal, the next step is to lay out the job description of each employee, set expectations of them and establish a clear communication process. This entails telling people how to interact, who to approach for various issues and how often should team members update each other. But as Murphy’s law states “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”, it is good practice for managers appoint someone to manage unprecedented problems that arise.
Step 3: Assigning tasks to employees
At this stage, managers are strongly encouraged to explain the overarching picture to team members before assigning tasks to them. This allows employees to understand the purpose of their job scope. A good understanding of the context helps team members rationalize and deal with issues encountered along the way.
Step 4: Implementing the plan and keeping a close monitor of its progress and performance
In implementing the strategy, it is crucial for managers to trust their team members, guide and provide support when needed. Although easier said than done, managers should refrain from micromanaging employees. This fear-based behaviour has proven to be detrimental to workplace relationships and reduces employee productivity as well. Instead, managers should schedule their time well and avail themselves to address questions that employees might have. These timeslots should be well communicated to team members. Teams can use software like Google Calendar to get a sense of when they should approach key personnel to discuss issues that they are unsure of.
As part of keeping a close monitor of the implementation process, managers should establish an implementation schedule. Guided by the implementation strategy, this schedule lists out the step by step to-dos and their respective deadlines. Colours could be used to represent the status of completion for each task (e.g Orange represents 50-60% completion and green represents 80-90% completion). Managers can better estimate the likelihood of completing the project on time and decide whether to invest more resources on the project or to extend the deadline given.
Step 5: Change, adjust or revise when necessary
In today’s VUCA economic environment, managers must be flexible and agile in adjusting their plans according to market trends. Additionally, initial projections and hypotheses may be proven otherwise when the strategic change is implemented on the ground. Managers should consider conducting tests on a small sample of their target market as part of implementing the strategic overhaul. By doing so, it enables them to capture any unplanned errors, mitigates the costs of failure and allow managers to adapt and make changes early.
Step 6: Complete the project and conduct a review of the process
At the end of the implementation process, managers should conduct a review of the process and list out the good and bad actions taken. Some questions managers can ask in this review exercise include – Did we achieve our goals? What were some of the obstacles faced during the process and how can we prevent it in future?
Making strategic changes is becoming an essential part of sustaining a business. At this point, most firms would have already made strategic changes to keep themselves afloat during this pandemic. We can only expect more of such changes to come. As the saying goes, with every challenge faced, lies an opportunity within. Managers can implement strategies successfully during this period, and a large reason for that is attributed to good leadership, proactive monitoring, and an openness to change and adapt quickly when things go wrong.