Why Strategic Planning Success Is All About Core Operations Strength

David Pate | July 18, 2017 | 

If you search on the fitness routine for a top athlete in practically any sport, you’ll likely turn up stories or anecdotes about the critical importance of core strength and flexibility to their success.

Tiger Woods, at his prime, emphasized core and flexibility routines to stay at the top of his game for so many years. Venus Williams, still a tennis great at the age of 37, continues her stability routines to keep her core and tennis game strong. And at 250 pounds, basketball superstar LeBron James knows that core strength and flexibility are essential to maintaining his explosive jumps and dynamic style.

Given all the other practices and commitments on their schedules, the fact that superstars with exceptional talent place a high priority on core strength and flexibility is telling. In the business world, a strong operations “core” is as much about process fundamentals and the management system as it is about employee mindset and discipline. But the best operations leaders are also well aware that a strong core is essential to the agile, efficient execution that is needed to meet and exceed big goals.

What about the core strengths of your operations teams? How do they stack up compared to best-in-class teams?  It’s a critical consideration throughout the year, but especially during strategic planning.

Strategic Planning: Getting big ideas off the ground

We’re all looking for game-changing improvements and breakthroughs that will help us jump ahead of the competition, but most of the big ideas that come out of strategic planning meetings never really take off. An inability to successfully translate the strategic vision into executable plans is often partly to blame. As is a lack of a comprehensive management system that can be used to monitor and manage operational progress in pursuit of excellence.

Going back to the sports analogy, knowing you need to get stronger and more flexible to dominate the local league is one thing. But putting together an effective daily or monthly plan that will get you there, sticking to it, and adjusting it based on injuries or unexpected progress is another entirely. And even if you have a great plan, if it’s difficult to track progress and see the results of your hard work, it’s easy to lose motivation and discipline. That’s where tools, such as an activity tracker and related software, can be invaluable. Likewise, in operations, comprehensive management systems that incorporate strategy deployment (or policy deployment), leadership development, process rigor and technology are becoming the backbone of achieving strategic planning goals faster and with better results.

Let’s take a quick look at four critical steps to achieving big strategic goals more rapidly and effectively, and then explore the key elements of a management system that underpin strong and flexible execution and problem solving.

1) Bring the most critical ideas into focus—When it comes to strategic planning, too much of a good thing (i.e., too many strategic projects) is a recipe for underperformance or even burnout. It’s better to limit objectives to three or four “breakthrough” goals that will have the biggest impact on your business.

2) Go all-in on true breakthrough projects—Game-changing objectives should be uncomfortable. Instead of simply extending current activities or annual growth goals, focus on projects that will dramatically alter your business, such as moving into a new region or adding a product line.

3) Set up your team for success—Everyone involved in a breakthrough project needs to have the bandwidth to focus properly on his or her role. That may mean reducing responsibilities in other areas.

4) Keep your eye on the goal posts and track progress—Focus, alignment and accountability are essential ingredients to strategic plan success. You need a way to make sure that your people and departments are making consistent progress, and adjust plans when circumstances change.

Managing breakthrough performance

Whether or not you regularly hit strategic goals, an operations management system can help you improve core business fitness and flexibility to achieve bigger goals faster by enabling focus, alignment and accountability (or FAA). There are four key elements that are needed in a comprehensive system to make FAA possible and build a stronger, more flexible operations core.

Strategy deployment—A process for translating 3-5-year breakthrough goals into shorter-term objectives and plans with measurable targets.

Operational leadership development—A process for teaching managers how to make daily progress that includes clear metrics and accountability.

Daily management process—Capabilities for measuring progress and identifying misses and root causes on a daily basis in support of ongoing daily, weekly, monthly and yearly wins.

Operations management technology—Software that underpins and streamlines strategy deployment, daily management, KPI management, project management and data visualization in support of more automated process rigor.

Once these combined elements are in place, organizations can typically push themselves harder and faster than ever before. For example, the management team of Alstom Transport, a manufacturer for trains and railway systems, used the Dploy Solutions policy deployment process to prioritize and execute improvements. The company dramatically improved service performance, doubled productivity and hit five-year growth goals. In light of the significant service improvements, one key client even renewed its maintenance contract three years earlier than expected.

And after implementing a consistent management system across all its factories, Carlisle Companies, a global diversified industrial manufacturer, significantly improved operating margins and reduced working capital. Clear alignment between improvement priorities and five-year business goals helped the company increase EBIT by 11% while reducing working capital as a percentage of sales from 30.4 to 21.9%. The company also attributed $70 million in cost savings, a two million square foot reduction in floor space and other financial performance improvements to the operations management system.

Build a strong operations core

Core training probably isn’t the favorite part of most top athletes’ days. But they understand the high costs of ignoring it. That’s why they rely on the best coaches, science and technology to stay as strong as possible.

Dploy Solutions is digital manufacturing software that is designed to help your organization achieve elite-level performance in pursuit of strategic goals by enabling you to link your highest level strategic initiatives to the lowest level of daily operations. By blending process discipline with technology that instills problem solving discipline and ongoing progress, Dploy Solutions provides a framework for keeping the core of your business operations strong and flexible. Small, large and global enterprises have relied on Dploy Solutions and our operations expertise to achieve double-digit productivity gains and better, faster execution. So if you’re looking for a way to build a stronger operations core, contact us today.

David Pate
David Pate

A skilled business leader with experience in both process and discrete manufacturing. Learn More About David Pate.