Yes, you should consider how you are going to implement the strategic plan prior to actually doing strategic planning. In essence you should be "planning to plan". There are a number of questions you can use to help you in planning the implementation.
How will the plan be communicated?
Who should be involved in the planning process so as to build ownership of it during implementation?
How will we measure progress towards organizational goals?
How will we communicate progress?
What role will all players (i.e. executives, managers, others) play in implementation?
Obviously monitoring progress towards the achievement of goals is important and valuable. Monitoring allows correcting before it's too late, and allows uncovering drift away from the goals, or costly "repairs" if the goals aren't being achieved. Apart from that, monitoring progress towards the strategic goals has another function.
It helps address a common problem -- the perception on the part of managers and employees that the strategic plan is really part of an academic exercise that is irrelevant to them. In fact, a major part of the strategic plan implementation process is to get across to everyone in the organization that "we're really really serious" about the plan and expect it to be used, and not forgotten.
When a company periodically monitors and assesses progress towards strategic planning goal attainment, it sends the message that it is serious. Without any monitoring, people don't get that message very well.
There are, indeed, some characteristics or best practices that seem to result in successful strategic plan implementation. Here's a short list of practices, suggested by Kathleen Paris, from University of Wisconson-Madison, and based on her observations about planning implementation within a university setting.
involving faculty, staff, and students (or employees) in plan development
holding meetings to get input before planning
holding meetings to get input on draft strategic plans
collective review of data to identify measures of success
setting short-term goals in “bite-size” pieces in addition to longer-term goals
monitoring progress through periodic checks
Notice the emphasis on involvement of staff, not just at the beginning, but throughout the entire strategic planning and implementation process. Also note the flow implied, particularly by items 5 and 6, which are normally part of the extension of strategic planning into tactical or operational planning.
A good candidate will list at least some of the following criteria: A clear defining of the goals and objectives of the campaign; identification of opponents; carrying out a SWOT analysis; imagining and playing scenarios; identifying primary and secondary targets; identifying allies; deciding what resources are required (salaries, expenses, other); devising tactics; drawing up an action timetable.
Candidate should be flexible, be an influential decision maker on their own, and manage good relation ships with co-workers. For example, when groups with similar interests create strategic alliances, they are much more likely to achieve their goals. Allies may also be sympathetic insiders. A good candidate should understand these concepts. A sympathetic senior bureaucrat in the right organization who understands your project can also provide the most help. Finding such a person and fostering that relationship shows initiative.
It may be that the most important factor in successful implementation of a strategic plan is the degree to which everyone in the organization -- top to bottom -- is held accountable for a) acting and deciding consistent with the plan, and b) creating the results that are intended.
It's really simple. If people are not held accountable, they come to believe that the "things" they are asked to do aren't important enough. When you hold people accountable, they understand that the goals (and other parts of a plan) are "serious".
Here's a quote from Jonathan Weinstein in Turning Strategy Into Action:
The organization must be held accountable to the intended results of the plan. To that end, the following questions must be asked and answered regularly, and include appropriate accountability based on the answers:
Are people's actions consistent with the documented mission?
Has there been measurable progress toward the established goals?
Are the priority projects being executed as documented in the plan? Have we stopped or appropriately adjusted the non-"Must Do" projects?
Are the priorities we established in the plan still valid?
Can EVERYONE in the organization talk about key elements of the plan? For example, can individuals express the mission, describe a strategic goal, or identify a core project?
Answer should include the five following key criteria: Organization; Observation; Views (the environmental view; the marketplace view; the project view; and the measurement view); Driving forces; and ideal position. The candidate’s ability to define his/her ideal position in clear, strategic terms is plus.
Regardless of issue, people in organizations tend to support and bring to life, things that they feel they own. Feeling a sense of ownership about something brings about a sense of commitment, since people fee the "thing" belongs to them. On the other hand, when people feel something is being "done to them", or shoved down their throats, they tend to not support, or even get in the way of the initiative.
This applies to strategic planning, and implementation. The more that people, from top to bottom in the organization, have a sense of ownership about the strategic plan, and a stake in successful implementation, the more they will be commited to the process. In fact, the people most likely to resist if left out are the people who are usually most affected by the plan, and these are also the people that are most important in implementing the plan.
So, it's important to work towards creating this ownership through an inclusive approach to strategic planning. That's because involvement creates ownership.
Candidate should understand the dynamics of change in any form of organization and be able to determine the problems of conflict and how they relate to the change. Candidate should be a problem-solver and handle dilemmas and/or conflicts effectively. They should recognize the potential problems that may arise from a lack of attention and the inability or reluctance to change.
In one sense, everyone is ultimately responsible for USING a strategic plan, but in terms of implementation, the KEY player is the leader of the organization, often the CEO, COO, or other similar senior position. Strategic plans, or "grand plans" have to do, at least initially with the overall direction of the company or organization, so in theory, and often in practice it is the CEO that will be held accountable for results that should be generated through the implementation of a strategic plan.
That's not to say that others in the organization are NOT responsible. All managers will have some responsibilities for plan implementation, and communicating the essence of the plans to employees, but if a strategic plan fails, or the implementation is faulty, it's the CEO (or other leaders) that are responsible.
Regarding implementing a strategic plan, the buck stops at the top.
If it's true that the most common reason that strategic planning ends up as wasted effort is that there is faulty implementation, what can executives and CEO's do to help with that implementation? The reality is that the impetus for successful plan implementation lies with executives, since nobody else in the organization is positioned to make it happen. It is absolutely necessary.
Model The Use of The Plan In Decision-Making: When making decisions demonstrate the relevance of the plan, particularly in terms of the vision, values and goals of the plan, by using the plan as a guide. If it's not a guide for the ceo or other executives, nobody else will pay attention to the strategic plan.
Help People Understand The Plan: Part of keeping the plan alive and relevant involves executives helping employees understand what the plan actually means in real life. By both asking employees, and sharing the CEO's ideas, about the meaning of the plan as applied to real every day decisions, employees clarify their own understanding, and also realize that the CEO is serious about implementation.
Encourage Staff To Evaluate: The strategic plan can, and should be used by those in the organization to evaluate the degree to which the organization is sticking to the plan, and/ or achieving the goals and objectives contained in it. Encourage employees to evaluate whether any specific action of interest is consistent with the values of the organization, or the strategic goals in the plan. Not only is this a very practical evaluative process designed to help keep things on track, but, once again, it tells employees that the CEO (or executive) is serious about the plan.
Cascade Down: Apart from what we'd call leadership functions (above), make sure that all the divisions and sub-units, and employees are making use of the strategic plan to formulate their own goals and objectives in the shorter term. Get the strategic plan's goals and objectives to cascade downward, and make sure everyone understands that what they are to accomplish is defined by the strategic plan.
Candidate should believe it is easier to make better and more effective choices after identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A SWOT analysis can be applied to a position, an idea, an individual, or an organization and is essential for good decision-making.
If we make the distinction between the strategic plan and the operational plan, part of the answer is straight-forward, at least with respect to goals and objectives.
During strategic planning, a set of longer term goals and objectives will be part of the work product. Ultimately, these goals and objectives need to be transfered and translated in such a way that they guide the action of the workunits and the employees in those work units.
So, part of the implementation involves using the strategic planning goals and objectives (and values) as a basis for creating operational plans for the entire organization, and its workunits. It's a logical process. The larger and broader strategic planning goals are divided, or sub-divided and assigned to the work units, during yearly operational planning. It is then the responsibility of the managers of the sub-units to ensure that their "bits" of the overall operational plan for the organization get done.
Once the work units have their yearly operational goals, they, in turn, are broken down into more actionable tasks, and assigned to employees and teams, often during the performance planning process (as part of performance management).
So, the strategic plan ---> the operational plan
The whole organization's operational plan ---> work unit's plans
The workunit's operational plan ---> individual employee assignments, goals and objectives
This cascading is what provides better goal alignment in the organization. Note also that in larger hierarchical organizations, there may be more steps (i.e. division goals, department goals). The principle is the same.