Implementation Essentials

Image by Mutante. The game of chess illustrates how very important it is to have a plan for your next move, and the move beyond that.

“Fools never learns from their mistakes, The average person sometimes learns and sometimes does not. But the wise, they learn from the mistakes of others.”Murray Johannsen


This process is planning is critical to flawless execution and getting the results you desire. How many of us are really getting the results we want? How many of us know why? And why not? A fundamental reason, the root cause for many is that we are missing  a sound strategy, lack the ability to execute tactically, or both.

The Power of Sound Plan, and It’s Implementation

There are few things that are impossible if you have the right plan, strategy and implementation tactics as the following story relates:

Three men had adjacent businesses in the same building. The businessman who ran the store at one end of the building put up a sign reading, “Year End Clearance Sale.” At the far end of the building, the other businessman followed with a sign that said, “Closing-Out Sale.” The businessman in the middle knew his business was going to be hurting bad, so he put up a sign that said, “Main Entrance.

The Essence of the Implementation Plan

“We were spending so much time planning for the next year and the next five years that our units were not making their current quarterly earnings.” From a Memo to executives “There will be no more long-range planning.” — Harold Geneen, CEO, IT&T, Managing,  Doubleday, 1984

How many of us are really getting the results we want? How many of us know why? And why not? A fundamental reason, the root cause for many is that we are missing  a sound strategy, lack the ability to execute tactically, or both.

Why Business Types Don’t Get Results


There are many reasons for this. But one of the major ones is that business programs, students are taught strategy completed divorced of implementation (Hanson, 2011). 

“Doing the right thing is important, which is where strategy comes in. But doing that thing well—execution—is what sets companies apart. After all, every football play is designed to go for a huge gain. The reason it doesn’t is because of execution—people drop balls, miss blocks, go to the wrong place, and so forth. So, success depends on execution—on the ability to get things done.” — Jeffery Pfeffer in (Kawasaki, 2007)

The Implementation Model



To understand the essence of implementation, one needs to defining certain key fundamental concepts. This means that you must also understand strategy. 

Strategy consists of three elements:

    • Defining the current state,
    • Defining the desired state, and
    • The plan.

Notice that when referring to strategy, the current and desired states list focus on results or outcomes. But the plan, provides a list of activities the how one is going to close the gap.

Tactics (or going tactical) refers to:

  • The plan, and
  • Implementation.

Its important to understand that tactics are actions that are implemented in time. That timing becomes an essential element of whether results are achieved or not.
Strategy Components

The mountain road to Machynlleth Looking in the direction of Machynlleth. Image by OSU
The mountain road to Machynlleth Looking in the direction of Machynlleth. Image by OSU. In this picture, you see all the elements of the plan, for the is a starting point, a destination, and a way to get from here to there.


Current State (CS)

Where you are now–the current situation. It usually requires rigorous analysis and measurement

Desired State (DS)

 Where you want to be–the “ideal” future. Often described as the end, goal, objective or outcome.


This means, tactics, plans, milestones, process, schedule, action items, etc. that take you from one state to the next.

Planning can be an extremely complex activity that can take months, as in the case of a strategic plan, or a few minutes, as in the case of making up a to do list. There are also major disconnects between strategy and implementation.

An additional complication is like whether the solution involves a project or a process. A project is a series of tasks that occur once such as building a dam or a highway. A process in an activity that occurs again and again such as filling out an invoice or typing a letter.

Means End Analysis


Means-Ends planning looks at how to best determine the proper steps that must be completed for the current state to become the desired state.

Steps 1: Define the current and desired states (The Ends)

Determine where to start—ether at the current state and then working forward or at the future state and then working backward.

Step 2: Partition the Effort (The Means)

The solution gets divided into parts.

Generate appropriate subgoals or milestones

Work the most difficult, most important milestones first.

Fill in the tasks between each milestone

Step 3: Determine the Timeline

A number of different formats are available. These include: action plans, Gantt charts, responsibility charts, and critical path networks.

Step 4: Add in any costs

Four Key Implementation Plan Principles To Remember 



Get Good Advice

Growing a business is like venturing into a strange forest—you will get lost without a map and a good guide.“

The kings of yore had advisors, individuals valued for keen insight and sound judgment. Plus they lacked the hidden agendas embedded in the minions around the sovereign.

Founders need someone to talk to, someone who shoots straight with honest feedback. By this we mean someone who is not just a professor, not just a consultant; but someone who has built a business or is building a business now and can teach, coach and mentor.

Learn the Right Mental Tools

“It’s what you don’t know that you don’t know that will hurt you.”

One must realize that one doesn’t know everything one needs to know. While most people focus on money as the primary limit to growth, we focus on the lack or misuse of  the mental tools needed to run the business. Abraham Maslow’s famous quote applies here, “If you only have a hammer, you see every problem as a nail.” It’s important to learn and master the key mental tools one will use over and over. This is rarely taught in the universities. But it can be learned.

Realize It’s Not Going To be Easy

“Never, Never, Never—Give Up.” —Sir Winston Churchill

It’s a difficult road—like a Hero’s Journey.One will need to overcome many fears, face down doubt, manage high stress. and work through failure. Understand that sometimes the toughest battles will be fought within your mind. 

Prevent The Fatal Flaw

He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still. — Lao Tzu

If you cannot mange yourself, you cannot manage others. Ignorance, inexperience, and a lack of skillful means leads to flawed execution. Plus personal weaknesses such as procrastination; being blind to one’s weaknesses; doing what’s urgent, but not important; are all part of a pattern that leads to failure.

Run The Planning and Implementation Process as a Process

Most people have no way to improve how they implement the important actions in there life. On reason for this is that there is no process that get repeated. Repeatability is important—for if a process cannot be repeated, it can be improved. 


Resources and References

“If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.” — Warren Buffett Financier and investor, April 17, 1988, The Washington Post

Bodley-Scott, Sam (2005). Implementation: How to Transfer Strategic Initiatives into Blockbuster Results. McGraw-Hill.

Bossidy, Larry, Charan, Ram and Burck, Charles (2002). Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. Crown Business.

Drew Hanson (2011). Why MBA Programs Don’t Produce LeadersForbes

Drucker, Peter (2006). The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting Things Done. HarperBusiness Essentials.

Kawasaki, Guy (2007). How To Change the World, Ten Questions With Jeffrey Pfieffer. How to Change the World: A Practical Blog For Impractical People. 

Morgan, Mark, Levitt, Raymond and Malek, William  (2008). Executing Your Strategy: How to Break it Down and Get it Done. Harvard Business Review Press.

Neilson, Gary, Martin, Karla and Powers, Elizabeth (2008). The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution. Harvard Business Review, June.

Sundheim, Doug (2013). Closing The Chasm Between Strategy and Execution. HBR Blog Network.

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