The Challenges of Executing Plans

Most people and businesses recognise the need for planning. As we always say, failing to plan is planning to fail.

But while you might tick the box on producing a plan, executing the plan is another story altogether. When you fail to execute a plan successfully, you start wondering why you bother planning in the first place, so you stop planning. It’s a vicious cycle.

Over the years of business coaching, I have identified the reasons why plans are not successfully executed. If we are aware of the pitfalls, we can avoid them.

Underestimating and overestimating
In our experience, organisations typically underestimate their execution and change capability over the long term but overestimate the execution capability in the short term. The reason for 90 day plans is to break down the 1 year goals into more manageable chunks. Similarly, your 90 day goals need to be broken down into more manageable chunks with monthly and weekly goals. When you identify the tasks that need to be done on a daily and weekly basis to achieve the 90 day goal, you will immediately notice if it is realistic or not.

Project prioritisation
When there are multiple projects to deliver, many people struggle to prioritise a project above another. Some projects have stipulated deadlines that are out of your control. Look at the severity of the consequence of not prioritising the project, and the opportunities that are presented if the project is concluded. The most fruitful projects are often not urgent, but important.

Strategic vs operational projects
Most companies blur the lines between strategic projects and operational projects. Meetings often end up being derailed by urgent operational issues rather than strategic issues. It is important to set time aside to discuss big picture strategic issues without getting distracted with day to day issues.

One of the major reasons for lack of execution is lack of accountability. If the consequences for not executing the plan are not serious, there is often no incentive to drive the project. Every project needs an owner and there needs to be an expectation that the owner is responsible for the execution of the project, failing which, heads must roll! Ownership needs to be at an individual level. Team ownership makes it difficult to hold individuals to account.

Visionary deliverables
Often goals are too idealistic and blue sky and lack tangible milestones. As simplistic and cliched as it is, projects need to conform to the “SMART” criteria to be successfully executed. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Based. If the goal doesn’t tick all the boxes, it is unlikely to be executed.

Lack of detailed planning
The more detail in the plan, the more accurate the timing, and the more likely it will be executed. It is vitally important to think things through and this is where teamwork often comes into play. Big picture strategic thinkers are often not good at micro detail and get frustrated when their detail-orientated colleagues pull up the handbrake or raise flags. By working together and harnessing the strengths of the individuals in the team, the likelihood of success is greater.

No visible scoreboard
Every major project needs milestones and a visible scoreboard to track progress. Plans often fail when there are insufficient lead KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and lack of follow up. Teams that have regular meetings to track progress on their 90 day projects are more likely to execute them successfully.

If you have plans that never seem to come to fruition or get railroaded by everyday operational challenges, a couple of months of business coaching can give you the structure and framework to get your business on track for future growth. Add “Call Greg Mason” to your “to-do” list for next week, and prioritise plans that will ensure growth and sustainability.

Have a great weekend.

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