I was having a conversation with a CEO from a software company this morning, and he said that his company (which is leading their industry in many ways…) really s__ks at Strategic Planning and that he recognized that they needed to become better. It got me to thinking why so many companies struggle with Strategic Planning and so here are six quick ideas to help you organize and facilitate your first GREAT Strategic Planning meeting before you get too late in the year to do it right.
Get Offsite: The distractions of meeting in your conference room will be many. You need to spend at least a day on this, preferably two to three, to do it justice. Get out of your offices and go somewhere where you can be present and engaged in the top priority while you’re working on your strategy, which is coming up with a great strategic plan for the next year.
Get On the Same Page: Imagine what would be possible if after 2-3 days together, your entire leadership team were all rowing in the same direction, and had their oars in the water at the same time, and were stroking at a high level of sustainable speed, what could your team accomplish? Imagine how much better it would get if your leadership team cascaded the strategy and the tactical actions and timeline down to THEIR teams over the next couple of days, and all of THOSE oars were in the water, propelling you in the right direction, then what would be possible?
Focus on Innovation: Don’t try to cover everything in your first Strategic Planning session. Save financial results and budgeting for another day. Start with a great discussion about where your company REALLY is today, and where you’d like to be. Encourage your leadership team to get creative and throw their best ideas about how we can become a stronger company into the mix. Ask your leaders to answer this: If we gave you a magic wand and you could use it to guarantee outrageous success for the company next year, what would you use it to change? Capture all of their innovative answers.
Focus on Few, Not Many: Don’t overwhelm your leadership team or your associates by trying to outline an intricate strategy with fifteen elements of success. Keep it simple, and pare down the list of objectives for the year into 3-5 crucial difference makers. If you get all five objectives accomplished before next year is over, you can always schedule another Strategic Planning session to identify the next five.
Monitor and Measure: Once the strategic objectives have been nailed down, and the team is rowing in that direction, keep very close track of how the various objectives are progressing and develop some simple and elegant measurements that are Key Success Factors (the ones that let you know you’re winning!). Get them regularly shared in a dashboard that the entire company can see. Nothing builds momentum like seeing steady progress toward success!
Set Expectations High: Let everyone in the organization know that you’re dead serious about making the next 16 months a transformative time in your company’s history, and let them know that you’re counting on EVERY member of the team to engage and bring their best. Remember that less than 15% of companies execute their strategies successfully and that your company must learn to excel in that area. Ensure that every member of the team gets their oar in the water, and help them see WHY everyone benefits, from employees to their families, to alliance partners, and customers.
That should be an excellent start toward a good strategic planning session. Look at your business today, imagine how you want it to improve, and determine how best to make that happen over the next 15-16 months, and you should see an enormous difference in your organization. Encourage your leadership team to come up with an elegant and highly executable strategy that the team can embrace, then get started! You can schedule another meeting to work out the financial aspects and budgets when you have the right plan. By working on this now, you give yourself a great chance to start the New Year with strength and to build early momentum that will make 2017 one of your best years ever.
In addition to many other things, Michael Beach helps small and mid-sized companies to build strategy and culture into their business to ensure that they can achieve ambitious results and create sustainable value for the company and their stakeholders. If you’d like Michael to travel to your first ever Strategic Planning Retreat, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and Michael will work with you to get your Strategic Planning methodology in place, leveraging Best Practices Michael developed over his 40-year career in business leadership. Leave a comment about this article here and Michael will email you his 25 Best Practices on Strategic Planning. Michael is an Executive Development Coach and Business Advisor, located in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in Minnesota
Remember that less than 15% of companies successfully execute their strategies. Your company must learn to excel at executing your strategy, and you do this mostly by keeping your commitments and delivering against your strategic promises. As a leader, you must be able to lead the team to an enormous commitment to success.