Is your strategy well-written and easily executed? Or is it so high level that devising actions and moving forward with planning is nearly impossible?

Strategic planning is one of those crucial components to positively impacting business growth. So why is it that after a long strategic planning session, your business seems to return to the old ways? It’s business as usual…not business that’s growing.

Perhaps it is because frequently we confuse strategy and vision. The elements cross over so easily that we lose sight of what is actually a strategic component and what should be part of a bigger, overall vision. Think of it this way…

Vision and mission are tied and will create the overarching foundation for the company direction and future. Strategy should be one to five years and created with the idea of developing actions that will move the business toward that strategic goal. The strategy will feed the vision and move the business along the right path.

With this in mind, it is still common to find organizations that treat strategic planning more like a vision quest. A strategy is set, and maybe some high level action items, but overall, nothing concrete is decided. Goals will not be met and the company will continue to stay in the same place, or perhaps even take a few steps back with the additional distraction of strategic items that are too high-level.

Challenge the Norm: Put your strategy on a diet. A good strategy should be big enough to allow for growth-oriented goals, but thin enough to give specific parameters for setting actionable items. A strategy should encompass a specific time-frame, and honestly still be broken down into components that are executed over a year. Then you can begin to work on actionable goals.

Take each strategy that is outlined and ensure you have created smart goals. But don’t stop there. Create action items and assign these items so they can be executed. Then you must create metrics to measure success.

Good metrics are focused on time, actions and outcomes. To set up your team for success, you must narrow down each action item into something that can be measured. Then determine appropriate communication plans, timelines, and interdepartmental feedback.

Within the timeline, have regular check-in sessions so your team can collaborate and review. Ensuring your strategy can actually be implemented requires tracking throughout the year. Too often companies will outline a strategy, then not do any follow-up on the goals and metrics until the next year. That is too long. It is too late to make adjustments to keep the strategy on track. Plus your team has most likely forgotten the actual goal of the strategy.

In addition to regular check-ins, it is a best practice to perform a mid-year strategic planning session.. Having good reports on actions, goals and metrics will expedite this meeting. Overall, you want to ensure that the strategy has not derailed, and that the team is executing regularly so the goals can be met.

With good metrics, regular communication, and consistent follow-up, your strategy will stay on track. However, all the goal setting in the world will not keep your strategy in good shape. You must start with a strategy that can be accomplished in a reasonable time frame. If your strategy is too fat, you will create a situation prime for failure.

Remember, vision is the high-level. A strategy must be thin enough to be executed. You will find out how in-shape your strategy is when you start to devise action items. If you have too many, scale back the strategy. Then everyone will win and your company will be set up for growth!

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