Strategy Implementation: How To Get Leadership Buy-in

For strategy implementation to be effective, you need your leaders on board. This guide will help you get them there.

Ted, Founder and Managing Partner at ClearPoint, has over 25 years of experience working with organizations to improve their performance management and strategy execution processes.

If you’re frustrated with the strategy implementation process, take a step back and consider this: Has your strategy been pushed onto your leadership team, or have they bought into it?

All too often, a strategy department or strategy officer develops an incredibly effective strategy—then forgets the key step of ensuring leadership is on board and part of the process. For strategy implementation to be effective, leaders need to buy into the process.

If this situation is playing out at your organization, here’s how to get things back on track.

Part I: Define what you want to accomplish with your strategy.

The core of the strategy is expressed in your strategic goals (objectives). A complete strategy has measures and projects linked to those goals. That structure only works if everyone involved—from leadership to those involved in executing the strategy—is on the same page in terms of organizational goals. If they aren’t, or the language they use is different, you’re going to struggle with strategy implementation.

Most leadership teams benefit from seeing the objectives in different categories. For example, you’ll want to outline which objectives affect your customers, your finances, your employees, and your processes. While a strategy map isn’t required, it can certainly help with the organization of these four categories.

Ensuring that your goals are clearly defined and linked to specific measures and projects is the first step to getting buy-in; after that it's time to talk with the leadership team.

Part II: Foster leadership buy-in with these four steps.

1. Hold one-on-one interviews with every member of the leadership team. To understand everyone’s perspective on your strategy, listen to the language they use, their specific concerns, and the opportunities they see to strengthen or improve the strategy. Finding ways to incorporate their language into the next steps will encourage buy-in.

Just talking about strategy won’t get you anywhere. You need to execute—and this ebook helps you figure out how to do just that.

2. Get all the leaders together for an initial strategy workshop. Use information you’ve gathered from the one-on-one interviews to understand which common strategic objectives everyone agrees on. This gives you a good place to start. From there, you can focus on areas of disagreement. Facilitate a group discussion and encourage listening and understanding of all points of view. Once you have a general sense of the root of the disagreements, you’ll be better able to tweak the strategy to meet everyone’s needs.

3. Assign ownership of the various elements of your strategy to different people on the leadership team. Remember, this isn’t your strategy—it’s your organization’s strategy. Naturally, leaders will look more carefully at elements of the strategy that they have ownership of. In doing this, you’ll open up more opportunities for the leadership team to consider specific elements that could be holding up the implementation process.

4. Begin to use your strategy. In my opinion, the best possible way to get buy-in on your organization’s strategy is to actively use it and manage it. Hold regular meetings to discuss progress. It’s possible that members of the leadership team will want to make changes to some objectives; remember to be as flexible as possible during these first few meetings to allow people to tweak language and definitions.

If you’re still having trouble executing on your strategy after implementing these ideas, consider the time factor.

Does your leadership team feel any level of urgency with regard to strategy implementation? If not, they won’t put a lot of emphasis on these exercises. Their emphasis is, and always will be, managing the organization and delivering great results. If leadership doesn’t feel that your strategy is helping them with these time-sensitive issues, they’re not going to care about implementing it. Keep in mind that if this is the case, your organization’s strategy map may not reflect the actual strategy. Sometimes leadership teams get caught in the weeds or simply use terms reflected in other strategy documents.

We’ve seen this happen before, and it’s usually because those attempting to implement the strategy can’t integrate it in such a way that the leadership team deems critical. If you need help with this, start by downloading our free ebook on How To Lead Effective Strategy Review Meetings. It’ll give you the step-by-step foundation you need to ensure that leadership is helping your strategy implementation efforts, not hindering them.

Strategy Implementation: How To Get Leadership Buy-in