Alignment Solutions Newsletter: For Successful Strategy Implementation, Follow a Recipe


For Successful Strategy Implementation,
Follow a Recipe

Alignment solution: You dramatically increase the likelihood of achieving the goals in your strategic plan if you develop an implementation plan vs. an action plan.

As my senior year in college wound down, it occurred to me that I ought to get serious about learning how to cook. Although I like a lot of different kinds of food, once a meal required more than putting something between two slices of bread or following the instructions on a box or can that went beyond “Add water and stir,” my lack of interest in the culinary arts had left me dependent on the kindness of others. While I understood WHAT I wanted (good, inexpensive home cooked meals), I was clueless about HOW to achieve that outcome. Fortunately during a trip to the campus bookstore, a promising title caught my eye: The Campus Survival Cookbook. Opening the book to a random recipe, the first step told me immediately that the authors had me in mind when they wrote it: “Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. Close the door.”

How often have you been given responsibility for achieving an outcome and not had a clue about how to pull it off? Trial and error is one way of learning. However, the costs of taking this approach often outweigh its benefits. Yet the “hit or miss” option often is the default method when it comes to creating a strategic plan. Here’s a common scenario: leaders write a strategic plan and tell their subordinates to make it happen. Some even may write an action plan to accompany the strategy. Yet somehow the goals never are achieved.

“Strategies fail in their implementation” is true. The world’s best written strategic plan is a failure if it winds up in a drawer or on a shelf (or merely published on the web site). It does nothing to help move the organization forward or serve its customers better. To dramatically increase the likelihood of achieving the goals in their strategic plans, I advise my clients to write an implementation plan vs. an action plan. Here are three major differences between these two approaches:

Action Plan Implementation Plan
1. Like a “to do” list, it tells people what to do, but not how to do it or what the expected outcome is 1. Like a recipe, it tells people what to do, how to do it, and what the desired outcome is
2. Because it’s vague, the amount of guess work required wastes resources 2. Because it’s precise, guess work is minimized and resources are optimized
3. It focuses on activities that may or may not lead to the desired outcome 3. It focuses on the desired results

Although taking the “recipe” approach is key to a successful strategy implementation, it does present some challenges. Due to the required level of detail, for example, creating it is very labor intensive. In addition, few people have the necessary expertise to do a good job. Yet there are tools available to help mitigate these challenges and successfully implement your strategy. What’s it worth to you and your customers to enable your organization to provide the best possible service or products effectively and efficiently? What’s the cost of NOT doing so?

If you’d like to see an example of an implementation plan, go to my web site and request an example of what a template for implementing part of a mentor program looks like. (Scroll down to Fire-Rescue International 2014 conference, handout #2.)

To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at and my blog at

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© 2016 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.


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