Before you read this, take about 15 minutes to get up from your seat, walk out into the warehouse and ask a forklift driver what they know about the company’s strategic plan. Maybe call an accountant, an analyst, or a salesperson. When you ask them how their goals tie into the strategic plan, pay close attention to the absent look on their faces or the awkward silence.   This is the point when your strategy just got real – or not.  I’ve asked this question many times and the most interesting answer I’ve gotten is “I don’t own a suit”, implying that anything strategy applies only to people who wear a suit.

Strategic plans frequently fall short on execution not because the plan itself was faulty, but because it was not effectively communicated, and the ranks didn’t develop personal goals that align and support the strategic plan so it died somewhere down the corporate ladder. So what measures must you take to ensure you have a good plan, and every single person in the organization has a role to play in it’s success? Get buy in, expect accountability for execution at all levels, and communicate.

Buy-in to the strategic plan is accomplished by getting people involved with plan development so pull teams in to the planning process. Understand how the culture communicates and address communication barriers. Expect everybody (not just executives in suits) to set goals that tie into the strategic plan so each person knows how their effort matters and supports strategic success. Then hold them accountable to their goals.

Strategic relevance is achieved from getting people to buy-in to it, establishing effective communication norms, and energizing a culture of accountability by setting goals that matter. This way when you ask a forklift driver or an accountant how their purpose in the organization empowers the strategy, they can answer with clarity and excitement because to them, the strategy is real.