Have you ever tried to arm a cabinet without looking at the instructions? If you had, you might have ended up with a few extra screws and a slightly shaky cabinet.
By following the detailed instructions that came with the cabinet, you would have armed it twice as fast without it threatening to break apart at any moment.
The same happens when you attempt to execute ideas without an implementation plan. Your ideas might be brilliant, but without a clear action plan, they’re destined for failure.
Creating an implementation plan is a crucial part of the idea management process. It’s what determines whether or not the execution will be successful.
But how challenging it is to develop an effective implementation plan depends on how you approach your idea management process from the start. Successful implementation of an idea is only possible for those ideas that successfully passed through all the previous stages of idea management - from evaluation to validation.
From Idea to Implementation: the Right Mindset
The key to an effective idea implementation is collecting ideas with a goal in mind from the start. Collecting ideas just for the sake of collecting ideas leads nowhere. You want to make sure that every idea you generate and collect at the beginning of your idea management process serves a purpose: to solve a problem.
Only ideas that prove themselves successful right from the beginning are worth implementing
No one wants to implement ideas that haven't shown early signs of success during the evaluation and validation stages or the potential to generate a feasible ROI down the line.
However, the implementation process starts long before that – it begins with listening to ideas. To even come across good ideas, you need a company culture that welcomes new ideas. You also need to identify people within the company who are willing to listen, evaluate, and implement those ideas.
No idea is perfect from the start, so it's important to create an environment where ideas can grow and establish clear processes to manage these ideas effectively. So, instead of focusing on the challenges of implementation, start by asking yourself if you're working on the right ideas to begin with.
How to Implement a Business Idea
Implementing a business idea comes down to three steps:
Preparing the idea for implementation,
Creating an implementation plan,
Executing that plan.
It’s as simple as that.
Make sure your idea is ready for implementation
Before you jump into executing your idea, make sure you have carefully selected, evaluated, tested, and validated the idea. If you have been using an idea management tool from the start, you should have completed these steps effortlessly.
If your idea has gone through these pre-implementation steps, it means it’s ready for execution. However, if you didn’t carry proper idea collection, evaluation, or validation processes, then you might run into numerous problems down the execution path.
These problems can include ideas that don't match the realities of the business, budget constraints, unrealistic changes, and more. If any of these issues arise, you should address them before moving forward.
💡 The implementation phase should focus solely on executing the idea rather than dealing with issues that could have been easily prevented.
Let's assume that you have followed our advice and that your ideas are now prepared to be brought to life.
Is your idea ready for implementation? Great, then it’s time to create an idea implementation plan.
An idea implementation plan maps out the who, the what, the when, and the how of the idea execution. It breaks down the process into manageable steps, specifies tasks, assigns roles, and determines timelines.
Every idea needs a clear step-by-step action plan to be brought to life. Such a plan is key to successful execution. Without one, you’ll end up stumbling in the maze of confused team members, unmet deadlines, a never-ending stream of emails, and reduced productivity.
In fact, the importance of having an implementation plan is confirmed by actual numbers. A report by the Harvard Business Review concluded that companies with an implementation plan see 70% higher returns than those without a plan.
Later in the article, we’ll detail how to create an effective idea implementation plan step by step.
Once you’ve prepared a detailed idea implementation plan, it’s time to begin the actual implementation process. That’s where your internal project execution system comes in.
Every company has its own processes, procedures, and way of doing things. With the combination of a clear plan and your internal project execution system, bringing your idea to life will become as streamlined and time-efficient as possible.
Every good implementation plan needs to seamlessly connect the dots between many different factors into a cohesive, logical whole.
It certainly isn’t easy to write, but it can be dissected into these simple six steps that we’ll cover below.
The first step in your idea implementation plan is to define your goals. What are you working towards? Whether it's improving upon an existing solution or launching a new, innovative product, identifying your goals will help you make sure you're heading in the right direction down the implementation line.
When setting goals, follow the SMART criteria. This means your goals should be clear, quantifiable, achievable, aligned with your company culture and values, and set in a realistic timeframe.
Setting SMART goals will help you set a solid foundation for the entire execution process and make sure that everyone involved in the process is on the same page, working towards the same objectives.
Making sure everyone on your team knows what their role is and what they’re responsible for is key to a successful idea implementation process.
Setting clear expectations and keeping track of everyone’s roles will help you increase team productivity and avoid confusion.
Assigning roles and responsibilities isn’t the same as assigning tasks
One person may be responsible for overseeing the project, while other team members might be responsible for carrying out specific tasks.
You can use a team management tool to keep track of everyone’s roles, responsibilities, and tasks. This, combined with clear communication that encourages your team members to openly share their concerns, will ensure that the execution process go as smoothly as possible.
When deciding on a schedule to carry out specific phases of the idea implementation plan, it’s important to be as realistic as possible.
While everyone involved in the project may be excited to see it through to completion as soon as possible, setting realistic timeframes will help you avoid stress, which can hinder your team’s performance. Rushing things will cause unnecessary pressure and lead to delays due to errors.
Divide your implementation plan into manageable milestones. Then, identify the dependencies - the tasks that are dependent on the completion of other tasks - to know the order in which they should be tackled.
This will ensure a smooth workflow and prevent bottlenecks in the implementation process.
To bring any idea to life, you’ll need resources, such as money, time, staff, software, equipment and other things depending on the project.
The idea implementation plan is a great time to think about which resources and how much of them you’ll need to complete the project.
💡 Planning ahead of time will help you avoid running out of resources unexpectedly and reduce the risk of bottlenecks and delays that can significantly impact the outcome of the project.
This is also a great opportunity to identify potential risks and how to prevent them. Risks such as a team member quitting, a shipment not arriving on time, or a key supplier running out of stock may be prevented, for example, by allocating emergency resources or having a list of substitute suppliers.
In fact, creating a contingency plan is a key step in the implementation process, which we’ll talk about in more detail further in the article.
Define metrics to measure success
To know whether your project is on track throughout its implementation, you’ll need to define metrics to measure its success or failure.
It’ll not only help you measure how well your project is going but also have concrete milestones to celebrate with your team as you move forward.
Establishing metrics such as ROI in advance will help you work toward a specific goal - and you can then compare the final outcome to what you’ve anticipated at the beginning of the project.
Be prepared for risks & challenges
When undertaking a project that can have a big impact on your company - such as implementing an idea - many things can go wrong.
To be ready for these situations, it's important to devise a contingency plan. This plan will help you and your team handle any unexpected issues that could disrupt the progress of your implementation process.
Sit down with your team to brainstorm potential issues that may arise during the implementation process, such as going over budget, running out of resources, or not being able to meet a deadline.
Once you’ve listed them out, come up with potential solutions as to how you and your team will handle these problems.
While anticipating these issues and preparing for them in advance won’t necessarily prevent you running from into them, it will help you navigate the rough waters much more smoothly and without as much damage.