Previously, we’ve talked about the importance of strategic planning in the hospitality setting—in order to anticipate potential bumps in the road relative to market performance, to supplement seasonal changes, etc., etc. Without strategic planning, it is difficult if not impossible to maintain or improve performance, regardless of market circumstances. One’s ability to execute against such strategic plans, however, is truly “where the rubber meets the road.” In today’s hospitality environment, there is no shortage of well-intentioned plans, ideas, and initiatives all aimed at growing market share and profit. There is, however, a shortage of well-executed and implemented plans.
Let’s talk examples for a moment. When a hotel team (ownership, management, operations) talks about its strategy to improve performance for a given period of time, it works to establish a plan for success. Often, this team speaks of a plan to “grow market share” or “steal business” in an effort to improve its own performance. While it may be perfectly fine to plan to “grow market share,” this statement is not, of itself, a strategic plan. In this example, “grow(ing) market share” is a desired outcome, but it is not a plan.
Strategic planning needs to be your first step in establishing future direction, but the tactics associated with this planning, and the subsequent execution of those tactics, are what will ultimately cause that strategic plan to succeed (or not).
In a successful hotel operation, growth and success seldom occur by accident. Plenty of hard work, determination, and planning and executing, take place which enable us to improve performance. One would be surprised, though, to know that many hotel teams do not clearly understand the separation between planning and executing. These teams spend plenty of time in developing their plans, but somehow lose focus when the time comes to establish executable and measurable actions that will bring about the desired result. For instance, a team may establish a plan that calls for its growth to occur via an increase of “x” percent in Group business. How will this growth happen? Who will be responsible? What specific and measurable actions will be assigned, and who will be held accountable for their execution? Until questions like these are asked and answered, any strategic plan must be considered incomplete.
When your leadership team sits down to discuss strategic planning, it is crucial that it recognizes all of the pieces that make up a comprehensive strategic planning process:
- Desired Outcome – how will we define success?
- Specific Tactics – how will we go about causing action that will enable us to attain desired results?
- Timeline – when do we measure our progress along the way? When do we force ourselves to re-evaluate and determine if we are making satisfactory progress or if we need to push harder? Hard deadlines and milestones along the way are crucial.
- Accountability – who is responsible for which specific tactics?
- Measurability – how will we know where we are succeeding, and where we are not?
- Plan Ownership – who has ultimate responsibility for the strategic plan, and who will ensure its execution and ultimate success?
Strategic planning is vital to our ongoing success, but only if the complexities of such planning are clearly understood. Most crucial of these complexities is the ability to execute against the plan; without proper execution, a strategic plan is nothing more than an empty promise.