Some years ago when Vanguard’s CEO Bill McNabb was running the company’s Institutional Investing Group, I asked him to serve as our keynote speaker at an Employee and Customer engagement conference we had organized. I still remember Bill’s excellent presentation– particularly when he spoke about Vanguard’s strategic plan. He held it up to show us as he spoke. It was one page long.

His point was simple and powerful: there’s no doubt strategic plans are extremely important–but after that it’s all about execution. I’m reminded of Bill’s point more recently when working with our client CEOs at Cecond Opinion.

For new clients, we begin with a strategic brainstorming session to help them articulate where they want their company to be in the next 12 to 18 months. We then develop a company “roadmap” and highlight several critical milestones and strategic priorities.

After the strategic piece is done, the execution phase begins. To ensure our clients–and we– are successful leaping from strategy to execution, my partners and I use a fantastic web-based project management program called Basecamp.

During the execution phase, we meet with our clients and login to Basecamp to check the status of the strategic initiatives tied to their roadmap. We collectively review and check off completed Tasks and, as needed, develop new ones. This approach provides structure during the execution phase, but also gives us the flexibility to adjust our course when necessary.

Since Project Tasks are assigned to individual team members, time sensitive, and descriptive, Basecamp is terrific in answering “who”, “why”, “what”, “how” and “when” for every Project Task.

Basecamp’s “Task Update” and other notification emails can be sent automatically to members of the project team. This ensures team members stay “in the loop” and are able to track progress toward completion of their strategic initiatives. Basecamp is easy to use, affordable (subscriptions start at $20 per month), and an effective collaboration tool.

You may wish to try Basecamp–or another web-based project management tool–if you’ve struggled to bridge the gap between strategic vision and execution.

-Frank Rowe, Partner, Cecond Opinion