08/16/2010 08:10 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

An Implementation Plan

One of my favorite management tools is the implementation plan I develop to support my strategic plan.

An implementation plan breaks each strategy into identifiable steps, assigns each step to one or more people and suggests when each step will be completed. For example, if one strategy is to create a membership campaign, one step might be to design a membership brochure. This project might be assigned to a member of the marketing or development staff and might be planned for completion in December of this year.

If there is no effective method to carry out the strategic plan, the strategic plan is likely to collect dust and can lead to planning backlash, the feeling that planning is a waste of time. In an industry where the scarcity of resources is always a key limiting factor, good planning is essential.

However, creating an implementation plan is challenging. It requires the planner to identify each step required to mount a particular strategy. This activity in itself is a good test of the plan. If one does not know how to implement a given strategy, then the strategy is likely not going to be implemented.

Creating an implementation plan does far more than simply test the ability of the organization to make a strategy happen, however.

If one simply sorts the implementation plan by person, one has a list of all steps assigned to each staff or board member. This is their individual strategic work plan. Each person now knows exactly the role they play to implement the strategic plan. If one person's list is too long, perhaps that person has been assigned more than can reasonably be handled and the strategy is in jeopardy. If someone has too little assigned, then that person may be able to handle more of a load. In any event, this sort allows the manager to communicate with each person knows what they are meant to accomplish and then to make sure every job has been completed on time.

But one can also sort the information in the implementation plan by completion date. This gives the staff and board leadership a strategic timetable. At any point in time, leadership can determine whether every step has been completed that was meant to have been completed. If tasks have not been completed on a timely basis, management must determine why. Did the strategy change? Did other events prevent timely completion? Did the project simply fall through the cracks? Does this imply other changes in the planning calendar must be made?

Too often arts boards simply approve a plan and then ignore it. Too many board meetings never refer back to the plan that may have taken substantial time to develop. The implementation plan gives the board a tool to keep track of the progress towards implementing the plan. Each board meeting should include a review of the implementation plan. What has been learned to date? Should the strategy be adjusted in some way?

I could not manage my organizations without my implementation plan.