Strategic Planning: How to Make and Work Your Plan

Here are some tips to ensure effective and efficient strategic planning when the team's momentum fades.

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strategic planning
Project management theme with a computer keyboard and a mouse
Project management theme with a computer keyboard and a mouse

“Strategic planning.” Two words that most professionals either love or hate. But, why? Strategic planning is an organization’s opportunity to collectively identify past and present patterns of their industry position and influence, determine a clear path forward for future success, and pinpoint measurable goals to accomplish their mission and vision. What’s not to love? Well, if only it were that simple…   

Often, strategic planning begins as a momentous event where the majority of the team players involved are excited to offer their input. Notebooks, flipcharts, and colorful markers are out and the stage is set. And now in the digital era, companies have pivoted leaning towards virtual strategic planning with the usage of online collaboration platforms like Mural, Menti.com, and Poll Everywhere. But after the shiny masterpiece is produced, there’s often a lack of follow through for practical execution. 

Unfortunately, great plans often fall by the wayside (especially within companies that have high turnover rates) because they aren’t created with a corresponding practical, day-to-day implementation plan. I mean, it’s a fun idea to want to go to the moon, but realistically, what’s your plan to get there? Not to mention, the more staff members see their ideas and input go unused, this leads to disengagement and lack of ownership which is something you don’t want.

So what can be done to ensure effective and efficient strategic planning?  I’m glad you asked!  To answer this question, let’s take a look at what BATimes suggests as 7 Steps to Kick-Start Your Strategic Planning Process:

  1. Identify your mission statement. An effective mission statement describes what the company does, provides insight into client value and captures the essence of your company.
  2. Create a vision of the future. A vision statement should look to the future. Think ahead to three to five years from now and write your story. What is it that your organization has achieved? Tighten that story into a clear crisp sentence and share it.
  3. Develop core values and guiding principles. Guiding principles are a set of accepted guidelines formed by the business that capture how your people act, work, make decisions, set priorities and conduct themselves.
  4. Create long-term goals and smart objectives. Goals are general statements outlining what you want to achieve to meet your mission and vision. For each and every goal it is important to identify strategies to achieve them. Objectives should be SMART; (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound.
  5. Establish an action roadmap with timelines. An action roadmap is a visual representation of your strategic planning items. It includes the key areas that your organization will focus on in order to achieve its goals and objectives.
  6. Build a communication plan. It is important that time is spent determining the best approach for getting people informed as to what is planned and ensuring that they know impacts of not achieving the objectives. Consider printed plans, maps, high-level visuals, town hall sessions, etc. It is all about communication. Be visual, be creative.
  7. Establish an implementation and monitoring plan. Organizations and teams fail because they don’t assign a top-notch resource to put together an implementation plan. Consider using a highly-skilled program manager or director to translate the strategic plan into tactical reality.

Now that you have this information, the keys to making and working your plan is customization, patience, and flexibility. What works for one business may not work for yours and that’s ok! If you are a key decision-maker within your organization, this is critical. Designing a strategic plan must include the consideration of the players involved for execution. Knowing your team’s strengths, talents, and areas for improvement will produce a far more efficient strategic planning process. Yes, there are instances where we all need to tighten our bootstraps and rise to the occasion, but be honest with yourself and your team. Know what you can and can’t do with what you have.

The other components are patience and flexibility. Remember to pace yourself and your team. Strategic plans are long-term solutions and aren’t meant to be accomplished in a day. Take a deep breath, relax, and remember to be flexible. There will be times when you may have to “change the flat tire of a moving car,” but you’ll get through it. Change is constant, so don’t be afraid to make necessary adjustments along the way.

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