I often go into companies that are so busy with day-to-day operations that the strategic goals they set out at the beginning of the year are ignored.
Don’t get me wrong; these companies are having some success and things are going along well, but what if more attention had been paid to those nicely laid out plans? Would they have achieved that extra 10% top or bottom line? Would they have added that crucial market sector they have been after for years? The reality is, it’s doubtful. Let’s consider why.
It was Eisenhower who said, “plans are worthless, but planning is everything,” and he was right. Have you been remembering to dust off the old strategic plan and see how you are doing? If you’ve been doing this monthly or quarterly, or—even better—bi-weekly, good for you! You are in the minority. However, the point isn’t to follow the strategic plan to the letter. Strategic plans are meant to be alive, changing and staying relevant to each new possibility.
There are 4 key steps to keep your strategic plan alive and current:
What exactly do these steps entail? What does it mean to say that plans are nothing, but planning is everything? Let’s take a closer look.
Continuous planning coupled with execution is one of the keys to business success. If you plan at the beginning of the year and never adjust, you are always reacting to what’s happening instead of making things happen. To change this trajectory, start by reviewing what you thought you wanted to accomplish this year – how did you do? What happened? What can we learn from that?
The next step is to revise. Change what didn’t work and come up with new ideas or strategies that might work. Maybe the goal or strategy itself was not a good one. In that case, chuck it out and come up with something more relevant.
Of course, it goes without saying that you don’t want to do this process of review and revise in a vacuum.You may be the head of the company, but that doesn’t mean you have all the best ideas. The ideas are in the room. They are from your managers and employees whom you have hired and put faith in. Listen to what they have to say and shape it into a plan that everyone can get behind.
So often we are caught in our plan because of our beliefs around “what is.” It colors our beliefs about what “could be.” When I facilitate planning exercises, I tell people to think three years ahead and picture what the company looks like, who the customers are, what products are you selling and to whom, etc. I instruct them to do this not based on the facts of today but based on the possibilities of tomorrow. It’s only in our belief that something can happen that it will. Reinvent the future, not by the rules or restrictions of today’s landscape, but by the possibilities not yet imagined.
Plans are made to be changed, but making the plan is essential. It allows you to change intentionally, rather than reactively. And, thankfully, strategic planning doesn’t need to be a long, drawn-out process. You need a competent facilitator (preferably not you), a target of where you want to go, the bones of a plan that can be implemented, and an easy process for getting there. Too much complexity in the strategic plan and everyone will lose interest. Keep it simple and executable. And remember to build in your review times so you can revise and reinvent, and then finally, repeat!