Why is it so very easy for us to put off tomorrow what can be done today? In reality, the world is full of stories about genius ideas that didn't become reality because the innovator didn't properly strategize. For every failure-in-strategy story, there is an equal number of failure-in-implementation stories. The common theme in all of them was that there just wasn't enough attention paid to one or the other. If you look across the landscape of the hundreds of thousands of successful businesses in this country, you will find one common theme: strategy and implementation must coexist. You can't have one without the other. If one component is weak, so will be the other. Essentially, strategy and implementation are interdependent.
Strategy is your plan of action that you develop in order to achieve your vision. It's all about gaining or at least being prepared for a position or an advantage over the competition. It's also about spotting those moments and points in time when you can better yourself. Strategy is the route you take to becoming a winner; it requires diligence and hard work. Whether preparing for a new career, starting a business, or climbing the corporate ladder, you must sit down, analyze the situation, brainstorm on outcomes, and devise tactics to maximize your position. Without this important component, your hopes of winning diminish to almost zero.
When you never take action on your vision, you don't get what you want; the same is true of when you go into something blindly. When you dive into something headfirst without considering strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, it's like setting yourself up for failure. At the very least, without such a SWOT analysis, you're not allowing yourself a fair chance to succeed. Strategy is your vision for the future; implementation is your 110% effort to make that vision a reality.
How to Unify Your Strategy and Implementation Processes
The most effective way to unify your strategy with your implementation is to talk yourself into the strategy's validity and the implementation's inevitable success. There are many steps to consider, and they all depend on what kind of strategy you hope to implement, but the following should be considered no matter who you are or what you intend to do.
• Do not procrastinate.
It doesn't matter what brand of business model you're using and it doesn't matter what phase of the game you find yourself in; procrastination can be the biggest killer of any strategy. If you haven't yet taken the time to create a business plan, what are you waiting for? If you've got your plan in place but you haven't set the ball in motion on finding funding, what are you waiting for? If you've got the funding and the assets you need to put your strategy in motion, what are you waiting for?
Taking it slow and wanting to make sure you've considered every variable is one thing; using that as an excuse for inaction is entirely another. So stop thinking so much because you're too worried about what the competition is doing. Stop talking about how great your idea is and start doing what needs to happen today to get things up and running. Don't dwell on the why-you-can't, concentrate on the why-you-can.
• Prepare a budget.
No strategy is complete without properly accounting for an accurate financial projection. No implementation works if it suffers from a substantial financial shortfall. Write a thorough business plan. Pitch it to the people you need for financial or conceptual help. Go after angel investors. If you're fortunate enough to have family and friends wealthy or talented enough to help, ask for their help. Don't fear money. It is surely the ultimate means to making your dream a reality, but it also has a tendency to begin feeling like an obstacle. With a sound business plan in place, you can head into your implementation with the knowledge that the money will be there when you need it (and at the very least, you'll have contingency plans in place in the event the money begins to grow tight).
• Tell yourself "I really don't have a choice."
If you keep your mindset focused on the what-if's and the doubts, you'll never get anywhere. But if you can successfully convince yourself that you have no choice but to take the leap, you will be implementing effectively in no time. If you're thinking about switching careers, what's stopping you? The economy? These things can be overcome. Waiting for that bonus? How much money is your happiness worth? A better opportunity to open up? What if it doesn't? How long are you willing to hold out? Eliminate everything that could be standing in the way of positioning yourself for the future.
• Have a contingency plan.
Nine times out of ten, a strategy fails because it failed to take into account all possible negative outcomes. The surest way to submit to this common failure is to go into your implementation phase without at least one contingency plan, i.e., the "What-If" plan. No amount of planning can predict every possible outcome, so why pretend that any of us are capable of leaping into a situation with perfect foresight?
We've all heard the importance of going in with a Plan A, B, and C, and yet many of us tend to approach even the most major situations in our lives with only a Plan A. Develop a realistic, measurable, and timely back-up plan. As we know, setbacks are bound to occur. It's not a matter of whether you will make mistakes or encounter unforeseen outcomes; it's a matter of how you deal with them. If you beat yourself up over the failure of Plan A, you'll never get anywhere. If you immediately switch to implementing Plan B, progress will continue.
In conclusion, be proactive as you strategize and be reactive as you implement. Do this and your strategy/implementation structure will move forward with greater harmony. Strategy is dreaming; implementation is doing. Remember, nothing happens without both.