Most organizations envision a better future with more revenue and retained clients and staff. But few invest the time to plan out “how” they will achieve a better future. That’s why now, more than ever, there’s a need for strategic planning in business.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
What Can Strategic Planning Do for a Business?
In today’s world of sudden and significant change, the endless race towards innovation, along with the need for nimbleness, leaves many organizations struggling with daily tasks. Work becomes scattered, unfocused, and reactive, as opposed to enacting strategic planning, which would allow time for being proactive.
Everything is a priority, and therefore nothing is a priority! John Doerr, the recognized guru of Objectives and Key Results, and author of Measure What Matters, points out that setting goals that align with your ambitions, passion and purpose sets a compelling sense of “why.” This is where a strategic planning session can help you focus on your WHY. Doing this will inspire and motivate your teams to create those difficult but achievable goals, and ideally engage your team which can positively impact employee retention.
Progress Does Not Happen Overnight
It is ideal to prepare for a strategic planning session with your senior leadership team. These sessions may take place over one or two days.
One effective way we found while setting up these sessions for our clients is utilizing a facilitator to ensure the planning session stays on track. This facilitator will allow the business leaders to participate rather than be distracted by running a meeting.
A persistent set of challenges we see many organizations struggling with:
- Organizations rarely take the time to collaborate with their team.
- There’s no formal or informal way to get input from all organization members.
- There’s no way to consistently and in a timely manner share important information amongst their teams.
The beauty of strategic planning, when done consciously, is:
- It should represent an opportunity to discuss current issues.
- Give time to reflect on successes and challenges.
- And ensure every member of your team is well-informed, and aware of the future plans for the organization.
Once the planning session is concluded, work with a facilitator to set an execution plan that brings the discipline you need to move those ideas forward. Follow-up sessions are recommended with your team throughout the year, where your facilitator is an accountability partner to ensure you stay on track. This is a critical part of organizing the priorities of your business.
At the end of the day setting big goals—is just a dream—until you have strategic planning in place for the steps needed, the people involved and the deadlines in writing.
Key Steps for Building a Robust Strategic Plan
What strategic planning does (or doesn’t do) for a business largely depends on the steps you follow while building your plan.
Here are some key steps that we focus on to help you build a robust strategic plan:
- First, schedule a meeting with your Executive Team and a qualified facilitator. That way, we can better understand your current challenges and concerns and where you want to take your business. The advantage of a facilitator is they can manage the process objectively and do so without emotion. A facilitator allows the leadership team to participate fully in the strategic planning.
- Utilizing the services of a facilitator, data can be collected from clients, employees, and suppliers on how they see your business. This helps you better understand how your stakeholders perceive you— what’s going well, where the blind spots are, and what opportunities you might miss.
- Once the data is collated and with the facilitation process, your strategic priorities will be focused on what will move the dial. It could be a new product/service development, expanding your territory, or improving efficiencies.
Look to answer four key questions:
- What are we doing well? Keep doing it.
- What are we not doing well? Improve it.
- What are we not doing that we should be doing? Action it. Door
- What are we doing that we should not be doing? Stop doing it.
SMART Goal Setting
The most important element of your strategic plan is execution. Utilizing the SMART goal setting framework is recommended:
- Time sensitive
You should get laser-focused on who is leading the priority along with what metrics will indicate success, when, and what additional human or financial resources are necessary.
“When you fail to plan, you plan to fail” — Benjamin Franklin
You have done strategic plans before. Somehow, they seem to sit on a shelf and gather dust. Maybe 20% to 30% is ever acted on, but generally, your teams revert to “same old-same old” in the busyness of their work. And again, another year goes by with all those great ideas generated in your planning sessions never coming to fruition.
It’s essential to recognize the importance of the five strategic planning tips:
- Get off-site.
- Stick to key themes.
- Get input from everyone.
- Break the silence.
- Narrow the priority list.
Recognizing these planning tips will help you escape the inaction that always comes between making the plan and the execution of the plan. We have found for our clients that this is the easiest way to avoid the missteps and pitfalls of bringing your plan to its full potential.
Some interesting and surprising statistics are emerging on the efficacy of strategic planning.
According to Cascade Research, 67% of leaders believe their organization is good at crafting strategy, but only 47% believe their organization is good at implementing strategy.
Harvard Business Review researchers have conducted multi-year studies on why strategy execution unravels. Their research reveals that several beliefs about strategy implementation we think to be true are not.
In closing, organizations need more than a strategic plan; they need a strategic execution plan. Keep in mind, the roadmap is not a straight line.
We wanted to share some content from our upcoming book on how important Strategic Planning is to your business, and your employees.
Mike Mack is a sought-after Leadership Coach, Consultant, Trainer, and Facilitator. He has been helping business teams maximize their potential since 2006 with the use of tailored consulting and training programs, along with coaching advice. For Mike, it’s about trusted collaboration with his customers. Mike holds an MBA from Athabasca University.
He is a two-time Amazon bestselling author: REMARKABLE SERVICE — How to Keep Your Doors Open; RELATIONSHIPS FOR KEEPS — How to Build Powerful Relationships in Business and in Life. Mike is working on his third book, LUNCH WITH LEADERS — Real Stories of Pivotal Moments for Today’s Executive, scheduled to be published early in 2024.
Kris Schinke is a focused and goal-oriented business professional with extensive executive experience in retail, financial services, and not-for-profit. She has a passion for inspiring and coaching others and believes a positive work culture is key for business growth and sustainability. She is adept in training, leadership development, and promoting teamwork.
Kris loves to promote successful business mentoring and professional coaching to help companies with organizational management. Kris believes coaching offers the insights and guidance to help others achieve their potential, with confidence and purpose. She believes everyone has potential if they are willing to take action. She holds an MBA from Athabasca University and published her first book, According to Wolfgang, My Business, a business reference book based on her entrepreneurial father’s successful equestrian business.