To address new challenges and business concerns, organizations must constantly monitor, evaluate, and adjust their strategic initiatives. When a new strategy needs to be implemented, it’s typically up to managers to ensure it rolls out successfully.

Whether you’re an aspiring, new, or seasoned manager, understanding the strategy implementation process and how it relates to organizational change is critical to ensuring you can be effective over the course of your career.

Here’s an overview of strategy implementation, as well as a step-by-step guide you can use to more effectively bring about change within your business.

What Is Strategy Implementation?

If you're relatively new to management, you might be wondering what the term “strategy implementation” means.

Strategy implementation is the process of turning plans into action to reach a desired outcome. Essentially, it’s the art of getting stuff done. The success of every organization rests on its capacity to implement decisions and execute key processes efficiently, effectively, and consistently. But how do you ensure that implementing a strategy will be successful?

In the online course Management Essentials, Harvard Business School Professor David Garvin says successfully implementing and executing strategy involves “delivering what’s planned or promised on time, on budget, at quality, and with minimum variability—even in the face of unexpected events and contingencies."

While developing a strategy is one of the first steps to implementing organizational change, the implementation itself is vital to a company’s success. Without an efficient implementation process, even the best-laid plans may not come to fruition.

If you're a manager who wants to implement strategic change within your organization, follow these seven steps to introduce and roll out a new strategy successfully.

7 Key Steps in the Implementation Process

1. Set Clear Goals and Define Key Variables


The first step of the process is straightforward: You must identify the goals that the new strategy should achieve. Without a clear picture of what you’re trying to attain, it can be difficult to establish a plan for getting there.

One common mistake when goal setting—whether related to personal growth, professional development, or business—is setting objectives that are impossible to reach. Remember: Goals should be attainable. Setting goals that aren’t realistic can lead you and your team to feel overwhelmed, uninspired, deflated, and potentially burnt out.

To avoid inadvertently causing low morale, review the outcomes and performances—both the successes and failures—of previous change initiatives to determine what’s realistic given your timeframe and resources. Use this past experience to define what success looks like.

Another important aspect of goal setting is to account for variables that may hinder your team’s ability to reach them and to lay out contingency plans. The better prepared you are, the more successful the implementation will likely be.

2. Determine Roles, Responsibilities, and Relationships


Once you’ve determined the goals you’re working toward and the variables that might get in your way, you should build a roadmap for achieving those goals, set expectations among your team, and clearly communicate your implementation plan, so there’s no confusion.

In this phase, it can be helpful to document all of the resources available, including the employees, teams, and departments that will be involved. Outline a clear picture of what each resource is responsible for achieving, and establish a communication process that everyone should adhere to.

Implementing strategic plans requires strong relationships and, as a manager, you’ll be in charge of telling people not only how to interact with each other and how often, but also who the decision-makers are, who’s accountable for what, and what to do when an unforeseen issue arises.

Learn More about Management Essentials

3. Delegate the Work


Once you know what needs to be done to ensure success, determine who needs to do what and when. Refer to your original timeline and goal list, and delegate tasks to the appropriate team members.

You should explain the big picture to your team so they understand the company's vision and make sure everyone knows their specific responsibilities. Also, set deadlines to avoid overwhelming individuals. Remember that your job as a manager is to achieve goals and keep your team on-task, so try to avoid the urge to micromanage.

4. Execute the Plan, Monitor Progress and Performance, and Provide Continued Support


Next, you’ll need to put the plan into action. One of the most difficult skills to learn as a manager is how to guide and support employees effectively. While your focus will likely be on delegation much of the time, it’s important to make yourself available to answer questions your employees might have, or address challenges and roadblocks they may be experiencing.

Check in with your team regularly about their progress and listen to their feedback.

One effective strategy for monitoring progress is to use daily, weekly, and monthly status reports and check-ins to provide updates, re-establish due dates and milestones, and ensure all teams are aligned.

Related: How to Give Feedback Effectively

5. Take Corrective Action (Adjust or Revise, as Necessary)


Implementation is an iterative process, so the work doesn’t stop as soon as you think you’ve reached your goal. Processes can change mid-course, and unforeseen issues or challenges can arise. Sometimes, your original goals will need to shift as the nature of the project itself changes.

It’s more important to be attentive, flexible, and willing to change or readjust plans as you oversee implementation than it is to blindly adhere to your original goals.

Periodically ask yourself and your team: Do we need to adjust? If so, how? Do we need to start over? The answers to these questions can prove invaluable.

6. Get Closure on the Project, and Agreement on the Output


Everyone on the team should agree on what the final product should look like based on the goals set at the beginning. When you’ve successfully implemented your strategy, check in with each team member and department to make sure they have everything they need to finish the job and feel like their work is complete.

You’ll need to report to your management team, so gather information, details, and results from your employees, so that you can paint an accurate picture to leadership.

7. Conduct a Retrospective or Review of How the Process Went


Once your strategy has been fully implemented, look back on the process and evaluate how things went. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Did we achieve our goals?
  • If not, why? What steps are required to get us to those goals?
  • What roadblocks or challenges emerged over the course of the project that could have been anticipated? How can we avoid these challenges in the future?
  • In general, what lessons can we learn from the process?

While failure is never the goal, an unsuccessful or flawed strategy implementation can prove a valuable learning experience for an organization, so long as time is taken to understand what went wrong and why.

Learning How to Oversee Strategy Implementation

Successful strategy implementation can be challenging, and it requires strong leadership and management skills. Effective delegation, patience, emotional intelligence, thorough organizational abilities, and communication skills are crucial.

If you’re looking to build your skills and become a better manager, consider taking a leadership or management course that aligns with your personal and professional goals. Management training courses are often flexible in design but offer critical, hands-on learning opportunities provided by leading industry experts that can be applied to any profession.

Do you want to improve your management skills? Explore our eight-week online course Management Essentials, and learn how you can spearhead initiatives that enable your organization to improve and innovate.

Kelsey Miller

About the Author

Kelsey Miller is a marketing specialist and contributing writer for Harvard Business School Online.