You and your senior team have agreed on your strategic plan and you are ready to implement. What comes next? Usually the knee-jerk response is to start working on your planned activities. But is your organization truly ready and fully onside?

Is everyone on board? Can you expect resistance, and where will it come from? On the flip side, who are your champions who will motivate others to get key tasks done and turn your strategy into success?

So, you need to hit pause, briefly.

Before you launch head first into execution, you need to assess how various people in your organization will react. After all, whatever strategic objectives you have, it’s the people throughout your organization who will make your objectives come to life.

So what can you do? Ask these three questions.

Question #1: Who will be most impacted by the activities in your strategic plan?

This question is straight forward, and it’s important to define what is meant by “impact”. Here is a working definition you can use.

  • Highly impacted = major change to job. This means they will be doing much of what they do today, completely differently tomorrow. It will require behaviour and mindset change. It may cause people to reassess whether they want to continue working for you.
  • Moderately impacted = need to do some things in their job differently. This may require using a new application instead of a spreadsheet, for example. Ultimately the job remains the same for these individuals, but how they do some tasks will change.
  • Lightly impacted = not much will change for these people, if anything.

The more impacted a person’s job is going to be, the more anxious that individual will be, and the more likely it is that they will want to slow things down. This is so that they can understand things better, try to reduce the impact, or plan how to personally respond to a negatively perceived event. None of this works in your favour.

However, doing this exercise does lead to solutions on how to work with these individuals. It also provides opportunities to identify influential people who are more enthusiastic about the work that needs to get done. These can become your champions.

Question #2: Who wields clout locally?

Not everyone asks this question. And it’s just as important as the first.

The reason that people often don’t think of asking this question is that they make the following assumption. They assume that titles equal power. The higher up a person is in an organization, the more power they have, is the thinking. And therefore, the more influence over your activities they have.

As with most assumptions, this one is dangerous because it’s partially true, which means it is also, and maybe more so, partially false.

For example, on a technology implementation we were leading, it was easy to assume that the most important person making decisions regarding technology would be the CIO. Well…it turned out that a middle manager in the IT organization was considered a leading thinker when it came to technology. As a matter of fact, the CIO usually conferred with him before making any major decisions.

What we discovered was that this completely unassuming, and easily overlooked, middle manager, sat on several external technology associations, and chaired some of them! So within his company he was seen as a technology expert, even a guru.

Ignoring him would have likely offended him, and he could have turned the CIO against us. Instead, he turned out to be one of our biggest supporters and champions.

So, although frequently the bigger the title, the more powerful the individual, that is not always the case. You have to test it. You have to take time to identify local opinion leaders.

With these two questions answered you know where to focus your energies. However, you still need to figure out how much effort you will need to exert to get key people where you need them to. That leads to the third question.

Question #3: Who needs to be supportive, how much, and where do they stand today?

If you need an individual or group to cheer-lead and champion your strategic plan, and they are already sold (just not that enthusiastic yet), then you have only a little more work to do. You have to convince them to shift from being a friendly ally to motivating leader and role model.

If the individual needs to be cheer-leading but currently is barely aware of the activities in your strategic plan, then you have your work cut out for you. And, considering people need time to process this change, the impacts to them and their organization, and everything else, you better get going real soon!

First you need to communicate to them and then educate them so that they have a good understanding of what this means to them, and what they need to do. At some point they may start objecting, and even get upset. Don’t try and avoid this – that’s actually a good thing! It means that the penny is finally dropping and they are becoming engaged – emotionally at first, but that leads to active engagement.

If anything, beware the outwardly agreeable, silent type. Quite often this behaviour is a sign of denial or apathy. There may be no energy nor engagement here. In the worst case scenario, you may be observing covert resistance that will come back to haunt you when you need it least. This individual may leave you in the lurch at a critical point in the implementation of your plan.

Now, finally, you’re set to go!

Answering these three questions will tell you whom to focus on and how much time and energy you may need to expend. It’s wise to leave buffer in your schedule to work more closely with your champions as well as through issues with your detractors. Time spent here may be more important than time spent some of the technology or process activities

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