Organizations are encouraged to do strategic or multi-year planning, yet the dynamics that occur during that cycle are often challenging for those charged with implementation.  There is a lot of energy and excitement during the development of the plan.  When the final product is adopted, there is palpable hope and enthusiasm around the vision, and confidence runs high.  

Then after a year or two into the plan, the momentum slows.  Those involved in implementation are often very busy doing less-than-glamorous work to put the plan’s initiatives in place.  If the goals are strategic, it means a cultural shift and very different ways of doing things (or not doing things) — all of which takes time to infuse into the organization’s fabric.  Often steps are taken outside of the public eye, which makes it harder to illustrate that things are happening.  The gap between the initial energetic selling of the plan and the slogging reality of implementing it dampens enthusiasm.

I was recently talking with a colleague about the work of our respective organizations, both of which are in the middle of a strategic plan.  We were commenting on the challenge in spending time hunkered down to be sure the plan is implemented, yet addressing leadership’s need to continuously have something new to share with the public.

We labeled this phenomenon the “sizzle ratio” — ensuring that the non-sexy grunt work involved in implementation of a plan does not overlook the need to have nuggets of news and energy boosts to keep the plan alive.  To keep things moving forward, you need to make soundbites out of small steps and tout progress in any form, instead of waiting for completion.  

Don’t forget to add the right amount of sizzle to the next project you’re cooking up!

— beth triplett


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