The most common question a strategic planning client asks is: “How can we keep this simple?” The question is being asked typically for one of two reasons: 1) They’ve experienced at least one long and painful planning process, or 2) They’ve never actually created an effective plan. So, though they realize there is a need to go through the strategic planning process, they’re lost as to how to do so simply and effectively. The key is to keep it concise, focused, and trackable.
Keep Your Strategic Plan Concise
A client clarified the need to keep strategic plans concise when I walked into her office for our preliminary meeting. Before I was seated, she looked up from her current plan which was housed in a large 3-Ring binder and asked, “How am I supposed to stay on top of this thing?” Like many leaders, she was getting lost in managing the details. As a result, she was missing the point of strategic planning: To create a flexible outline of the most critical actions needed over the next 3+ years to move your company where you want it to be. In order to stay flexible, format your plan in a way that doesn’t allow you to focus on the details, but instead, it forces you to focus on the desired outcomes. This is why I’m a huge fan of the one-page plan format. With my clients (i.e., $5M-$15B), their one-page plans can fit on an 8×11” or 11×17” paper. Seriously, they can. Using a landscape format, create four columns: Strategic Objectives, Year 1, Year 2, Year 3. (Note: You’ll be focusing on just the next three years to get the momentum going, even though your vision may be 10 years out.) After you’ve created your columns, create no more than five rows – one for each of your identified Strategic Objectives (i.e., These will be identified through your SWOT Analysis. Your analysis will reveal these thematic needed outcomes such as: Increase Market Share, Enhance Operational Efficiencies, etc.) Then, you’ll simply populate, row-by-row and year-by-year, what you need to do to move your organization forward.
Keep Your Strategic Plan Focused
That statement may seem pretty basic, but it’s the most common mistake I see in strategic plans.
- All actions should help drive you towards your Vision. If an action is not driving you forward, why are you allocating resources to it?
- All actions should clarify a new step or a specific enhancement needed. Including an action such as, “Continue Processing at the 90th Percentile” is pointless. If you’re already doing this, it’s part of current operations. It’s not strategic and doesn’t guide your team forward.
- All actions should be aligned. This means that all actions on the plan have the potential to impact some other action(s) on the plan. This enables you to leverage the actions of one department, team or group to support other areas. By sharing, communicating and aligning your entire organization’s activities, you’re forcing your teams to communicate, work together, learn about the other departments, products, and services, gain greater skills and enhance their enterprise-wide thinking. As a result, they can think and problem solve more strategically. This alignment also then enables your team to work together to implement, manage, and adjust the plan. The plan is now the team’s to manage, not yours.
Keep Your Strategic Plan Trackable
When you develop your goals or actions with clear, measurable deliverables, you and your team can then meet quarterly, if not monthly, to simply review your one-page plan. You’ll review it item-by-item to gauge what has been done, what is being done, where support is needed, what resources and timelines need to shift, and what items need to come off, or what needs to be added.
By formatting your plan concisely, you’ll keep it focused. You’ll be better able to monitor, manage, and adjust it, and you’ll keep your strategic planning process simple.
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Copyright MMXVII – Liz Weber, CMC, CSP – Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890
Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about me on LinkedIn!