Making Ideas Happen: How to Act on Great Strategies

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on May 17, 2010 in: Project Management, Time Management Strategies


As someone who thinks about business productivity a lot, developing strategies and helping businesses take action are two key elements of what I do. Entrepreneurs often do a great job of creating strategies (after all, what entrepreneur doesn’t love to dream up new opportunities for their business!?!) but they struggle with turning those strategies into actions. If you have great ideas but you often feel like you’re plodding along doing the same old thing, you’re certainly not alone. Even some of the biggest companies in the world complain about this as a constant problem they face.

In this blog post I’m going to give you a step-by-step way to create actions from your strategies.

Step 1: Write out your strategies. (I’m assuming you can do this already; I think lots of entrepreneurs find strategic development to be the easy part!) Write down plans and ideas to take you to new levels of success.

Let’s use as an example the strategy: “Become a thought leader in my market.”

Step 2: Break it down. Most strategies are big, fuzzy ideas and not easily actionable. So you need to break down your strategy into smaller pieces. Some people call these objectives (but others consider objectives to be subsets of goals – whatever). I don’t care what you call them. Just list the elements that will make up your strategy; list the things that you feel will fully contribute to achieving your strategy.

In our example of thought leadership, the elements might be: “publish a book”, “develop a proprietary system”, “get a regular column in a periodical”, “speak regularly”, “get quoted in the media”… and there might be several more.

Step 3: Create actions for each of these objectives. Now it’s time to create step-by-step, easy-to-implement actions for each one. Get as basic and granular as you can so that all you need to do is sit down, do whatever it says, cross it off, and move on to the next step.

In our example, “Publish a book” might have actions like: “brainstorm, write chapter 1, write chapter 2, write chapter 3, write a proposal, query an agent… (etc.)”

You will have some actions that are dependent on other people and could influence the course of your plans. These are inevitable but you should try to reduce them as much as possible or put them as early as possible into your plan. That way, if other peoples’ decisions change your course, it will change your course earlier rather than later.

Step 4: Set dates. Beside each action, set a due date. This is an important step, even though it seems like a lot of work. Setting a date is not just setting a deadline, but it also helps you to get a realistic view of what your timeline to completing your strategy is going to be like. You might desire to achieve your strategy in six months until you count out all of your dates and realize that it will take two years to write and sign a deal on a book. And as you start implementing these actions, you might discover that new situations occur that speed up or slow down your timeline.

Step 6: Go! Now it’s time to start acting on these. Work toward the “due dates” on each one, but be willing to adjust all of the dates as you go. And, as circumstances and technology and opportunity changes, you might need to add or subtract objectives or actions; that’s okay.

This was a quick-and-dirty step-by-step way to turn strategies to actions and there are more subtle points to be made. But this is a good start and I’ll touch on some more ideas in the near future.

Heather Recommends:

If you are a coach, freelancer, or entrepreneur who wants to succeed like a pro, I can help.