hard hats, planning, manufacturing strategies, teamwork

In “How to Improve the Execution of Manufacturing Strategies (Pt. I),” we discussed reviewing the execution capability of a manufacturing strategy, the first of two steps to improve the chances of successful strategy execution. In Part II, we will consider the second of these two steps.

Implementation Planning: Coordinate a Plan that Includes all Departments

The manufacturer has determined its strategies and conducted an execution capability review. They know where the gaps in execution capability lie and feel confident they can address them. The strategies should succeed.

A second problem now arises. Implementation planning takes place at the department level.

Each department develops a plan for how they will implement their part of the strategy. Many separate plans result – one for each department. Then each department works to implement its plan. They all work on the strategy, but they do so separately.

The department plans have an underlying problem – they aren’t coordinated.

Why Coordination in Manufacturing Strategy Implementation is Important

Imagine building a house. An architect designs the house, by looking at projects like 2 story house plans. The architect’s design is like a strategy for a house. It looks good on paper, now someone must build it. All the basic factors will be taken into consideration, for example, the majority of houses will have a garage put into the plans, so they will check out garage doors for sale and see which ones suit better for the overall design.

Normally, a builder would own construction. The builder ensures coordination of detailed activities. They decide the order in which to do things. They coordinate tradespeople and decide when materials should arrive. So if a custom glass shower wall has been chosen for the bathroom, that needs to be only ordered/brought in during that specific part, as panels of glass just lying about can cause damage to someone or the panel could break, resulting in more costs for the construction and time wasted, it has to be planned right down to the last detail.

Imagine if the detailed coordination did not occur.

Concreters, carpenters, glaziers, electricians, plumbers and roofers would each have their own plan. They would each interpret the architect’s plans and decide what they needed to do. And then they would work independently.

The result – the carpenter might arrive to build the frame and find the concrete foundations not in place. The glazier might arrive to fit windows and find the frame not finished. The electrician might arrive to find the walls already completed, with no access for wiring.

Chaos would reign. Delays would occur. Costs would blow out. The quality of the house would suffer.

Strategy Implementation

Now consider strategy implementation. Executives design a strategy like an architect designs a house. The manufacturing executives are the architects. But manufacturers don’t have a ‘builder’. They don’t have someone to coordinate the implementation of their strategy.

So, who coordinates the detailed activities? It’s not the executives who came up with the strategy. They don’t have the time. So the answer is, it depends.

In practice, everyone hopes the activities of each department will somehow coalesce into the delivery of the strategy. But that’s like hoping the individual plans of each tradesperson will somehow result in a completed house. It might happen, but it will be pure luck.

Uncoordinated implementation of the strategy suffers the same result as an uncoordinated house. Delays occur, costs blow out and the quality of the implementation does not measure up.

And the more time that passes, the less coordinated the plans become. Each department has its own priorities. And as the day-to-day business continues, departments tend to focus on their own priorities. The strategic initiatives will slip, and that can produce a number of problems. For example:

  • HR plans a great training course, but there’s a delay in the new IT systems. HR doesn’t find out until it’s too late, so the course goes ahead but is ineffective.
  • New processes are designed, but neither HR nor IT is properly briefed. Training and systems don’t support the new processes.
  • A great new IT system is implemented, but partners aren’t trained, so they don’t use it.

Manufacturing executives can’t abrogate responsibility for ensuring alignment of each department’s execution. A plan for a strategy must include a plan for coordinated execution.

Improving the Success of a Manufacturing Strategy

An executive team might develop a superb strategy, but most strategies will fail if not executed well. To improve execution, manufacturers should consider two things. First, conduct a formal review of execution capability. Ensure there’s clarity about what’s needed to execute the strategy. Then, build that execution capability.

Second, don’t let departmental silos undermine the strategy. Ensure there’s a single plan covering all departments, not a separate plan for each department. Then, manage the strategy rollout as a single project.

These two actions will increase the chance of success for a manufacturing strategy. And that reflects well on any executive team.