Strategic Planning is a common term with a wide range of meanings. It is a critical part of your business plan and a necessary process to help your organization achieve its growth goals.
Many companies miss the mark or skip this integral step and wonder why they aren't achieving their goals. The common mistakes include; having only a strategic plan, no way to execute it, or skipping strategic planning altogether and going straight to the tactical execution plan. Without both, you are missing essential stages to build a path for your organization’s and your sales team’s success.
Effective strategic planning has six stages. The first three stages are truly strategic, including Current State, Desired State, and Strategies/Initiatives. The last three stages make strategic plans come to life. They are Structure and Resources, Activities and Plans, and Accountability. Each stage builds off the other and allows for organizations to thrive.
Common strategic planning mistakes you will want to avoid:
Even during a pandemic, it's important not to lose sight of long-term goals. Without having the end in mind, you can get off track quickly. If your short-term plans work against your long-term vision, you can run into issues.
For example, if you decide to sell your manufacturing plant to help with cash flow, only to find that you need the plant in a year or two to start making a new product. You will likely find the decision to be cost-prohibitive.
Just because the route you need to take may have changed, doesn't necessarily mean you need to change the destination. If your long-term plan includes things that may become obsolete, then you run the risk of becoming obsolete yourself. Take, for example, Blockbuster, Polaroid, and Borders. All failed to innovate, resulting in business failure.
More often than not, your long-term goal may still be viable with a few adjustments (ex. digitization or leveraging technology).
Being a facilitator and a participant does not allow you to do either effectively. A good facilitator keeps the process moving forward, reads the room, and makes adjustments. They also need to push back, offering questions and ideas that will allow the group to get all of their best thinking out in the open.
As a participant, one needs to generate their ideas, listen to the group, and build off of each other. Participants are thinking about what they will add next vs. what the group needs to move forward. Ultimately, if you are both the facilitator and the participant, your group may take longer to get where they need to go, or they may miss it altogether.
This can be the most fun step in the strategic planning process, but can seem daunting.
Learning new things and getting into new habits can be a fantastic experience. Still, more often than not, there is hesitation. According to Medical News Today it's because it takes effort for our brains to build new routines. Knowledge of the benefits of new habits is not the problem. It's the actual taking action towards a new goal that has been the biggest obstacle.
Teams can get stuck thinking about the same ideas over and over again, just reprioritizing them. Allow yourself and your team the time to generate new ideas without any limits to get creative juices flowing. Focus on quantity over quality. You can always pair down crazy ideas, but it's challenging to go the other way.
As you assemble the team who will participate in the strategic planning process, ensure you have leadership represented who can help move the plan forward. Most organizations already have a leadership team in place that participates. Depending on your organization, you may want to consider other department leaders, to gain a broader perspective.
If you do this, you will want them to understand their role. Are they a decision-maker, same as the leadership team, or are they there to help generate ideas as a non-voting participant? For those who get a vote, how many votes do they get? And who has the final say? If you don't establish this up front, you will face the issue of alignment. Once someone is tied to their ideas, it's difficult to go back and say their vote isn't the final vote. If they know going in, they will be more likely to adopt other ideas, since they understand the process.
You can create the most creative strategic plan, but if you don't have a way to execute it, it's just a piece of paper. Knowing your long-term goals and the strategy you will take to get there provides the map, but you also need directions. The best tactical plans include milestones or ‘rocks’ that need to be achieved, measured, and have a timeline associated with them.
These milestones are then broken down into activities and tasks that are needed to complete the overall rock. Both rocks and actions should have someone assigned to them. It may take multiple people to achieve the rock, but someone needs to be responsible for bringing it across the finish line.
Strategic planning often takes place at the executive leadership level. If the plan stays at that level, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve, so you should consider getting buy-in from your team.
According to IBM, "80% of employees feel more engaged when their work was consistent with the core values and mission of their organization." People are much more motivated when they know how their job and their day to day tasks tie to the company vision. People want to be a part of something larger than themselves and feel as though they are contributing to the organization.
How this is communicated is very important for execution. Always sell the 'why' behind the change. Start with letting the team know 'why' the strategy is what it is. For example, if a company had historically been getting new business for years because of their strong brand recognition and need for their products, and now there is increased competition, they need to think about business development in a new way. One of their initiatives may be to generate new business, versus being reactive and waiting for the customers to come to them. Letting the team know why they need to do this and then how to do this will help engage them in this new initiative.
The accountability plan is the secret sauce to the strategic planning process. Companies can miss their goals substantially without this in place. While each person has their rocks and activities to complete, if there isn't a process to check-in and see how it is going, it is very easy to fall a couple of weeks, a month, or even a quarter behind. If you are meeting to review your tactical plan weekly or biweekly, you will need to identify any lapse in progress or adjustments that need to be made. Know that there will be things that impact your plans. You cannot predict the future, but you can make the best decisions with more information.
If you want more information on accountability, check out our blog, "Accountability – What Does It Really Look Like?"
Taking the time to invest in the strategic planning process helps to ensure the direction you are headed is still viable. It allows you to generate new ideas to create different paths to success, aligns your leadership team and your organization on the goals, and each individual's role. Then it creates a framework with a plan and accountability to see it through to the execution.
If you are wondering if your strategic planning process needs a tune-up, call us for a free consultation.