What Makes a Winning Strategy? (Part 2)

Key elements for implementation plan development

Companies often don’t achieve their plan’s objectives because they have poorly allocated effort between the strategic plan and the implementation plan. As a result, they can end up with a strong strategy, but a poor implementation plan, leading to middling results and a frustrated, unengaged organization.

In my previous post I proposed three questions to answer in order to assess if you have a ‘winning strategy.’ These questions were:


  1. Define: Is what I have really a strategy?
  2. Develop: Was my strategy appropriately developed?
  3. Evaluate: How should I evaluate my strategy prior to launch?

In this post, I focus on the second question by proposing 4 elements crucial to appropriately developing a winning strategy. It is not a coincidence these 4 elements are primarily related to developing the implementation of the strategic plan. In fact, the elements were chosen from implementation  planning exercises conducted with Cicero clients over the recent strategic planning season, and are meant to prompt a review of your planning process, improving the link between planning and implementation.


4 Elements of implementation plan development

  • Planning must be seen as a critical function
    • Was implementation planning seen as an ad-hoc exercise or a critical function of the CEO or business unit?
    • Were senior-level leadership engaged, and was there an executive with final responsibility for implementation plan development?
  • Planning must be relevant to the entire organization
    • Was there broad engagement of all the relevant stakeholders in plan development? These may include shareholders, customers, partners, suppliers, employees, and competitors.
    • Were all options for achieving the plan’s vision thoroughly considered, if not explored?
    • Were all obstacles to the plan discussed, acknowledged, or overcome?
    • Was the plan developed to ensure that every function and role can understand their contribution to plan success?
    • Is the plan in line with, and fully leveraging the skills, capabilities, and cultural assets of the organization?
  • Planning must be eminently practical
    • Is the plan implementation tied to budgets and progress?
    • Was agreement reached on the prioritization of initiatives, milestones and outcomes.
    • Were implementation plans clearly detailed with input from those who will be responsible for execution?
    • Was there time allocated to execute on plan initiatives that is separate from the day-to-day, where required?
    • Is there detail on what needs to change in the way individuals perform their job to ensure plan success?
  • Planning must include measures and accountability
    • Was there clear accountability, timelines, and sufficient rigor in the implementation planning exercises?
    • Did the plan include discussions of appropriate incentives and accountability measures for success and failures?
    • Did plan stakeholders agree on the metrics and method for tracking plan progress?

By not developing the implementation plan with the appropriate rigor, inputs, buy-in, or detail, chances are, your leadership team and employees won’t have sufficient information or belief in the plan to execute with the fidelity required to succeed. And unfortunately, if it isn’t done right the first time, it won’t get any easier the second time.

Helping your organization achieve a ‘winning strategy,’ by improving your implementation planning is just one of the ways Cicero Group can add value to your organization.

In the next post, I’ll discuss the third and final question; How should I evaluate my strategy prior to launch?

Cameron Nelson


Cameron Nelson is a Principal at Cicero Group. In this role, Cameron leads strategy engagements for major private and public companies across Healthcare, Industrial, and Technology companies. Cameron’s expertise include corporate and business unit strategy, go-to-market and new venture development, channel and customer strategy, and change management.

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