So, where is your strategic plan? If you are like many leaders, you have sat through days and days of meetings with high priced consultants discussing the future of your company and developing what a leader I once worked for calls a “sexy” document. You know what I mean. That glossy, full-color, expensive dust collector on your shelf. So, how do you get that document off the shelf and make your strategic planning efforts not only meaningful, but profitable? There are four steps to making the most of your strategy.
Step 1: Plan.
Most of us do this part really well. We perform internal and external scans; complete a SWOT analysis and discuss the requirements of our customers and stakeholder. While this is time consuming, it cannot and should not be rushed. This analysis lays the groundwork for determining our strategic plan.
Then we sit down and construct a document using a lot of words like growth, effectiveness and efficiency. Those are the buzz words that your Board is looking for, right? Wrong. They are looking for a document that is going to help lay the foundation for the future of your company. They are looking for a clear picture of where your organization is headed; not a lot of jargon.
Step 2: Develop the Plan – with Meaningful Metrics and an Action Plan for Implementation.
This is where many of us begin to fall short. We develop a plan with metrics that resemble something short of nothing. Do these sound familiar: grow revenues; enter into new markets; optimize use of resources; improve our processes? How do we know when or whether we have achieved these goals? How do we measure our progress in achieving these goals? Any change in a positive direction is good and automatically attributed to our outstanding strategic plan. Any change in a negative direction is attributed to our standard scapegoat (the economy, our competition, lack of resources, insert your idea here).
Developing metrics is not so hard. Developing metrics that actually measure progress toward your strategic goals is hard. It forces us to look at where we say we want to be and find a measure that will really tell us if we are getting there. It forces us to be specific about what our goals are. Reduce rework on XYZ process by 7% is more specific. Reduce rework related to ABC on XYZ process by 7% is even more specific and can help us hone in on the critical issues.
Step 3: Implement the plan.
This is where many of us throw in the towel. This step requires us to identify owners for each action project and hold them responsible for implementation and results. Without identified owners, projects tend to go into drift and are never fully completed. Without accountability, there is always an excuse for something not getting done. By holding regular (at least quarterly) strategic plan check in meetings, management can get a gauge on how projects are proceeding and results are trending. Frank and open discussions need to be held, with a focus on achieving plan objectives and not on placing blame or making excuses.
While these meetings can be time-consuming, they are absolutely necessary to ensure implementation of your strategic plan.
Step 4: Celebrate successes.
While many of us tend to focus only on the fires at our feet, criticizing mistakes and missteps; we all know that spending time focusing on successes goes a long way to increasing morale and employee satisfaction. So, spend some time celebrating successful project implementations; improvements in key metrics; and the hard work that your staff put in to get you there. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – a small token of thanks often goes a long way to keep employees happy.
So, if you follow these four steps will your company’s profits increase threefold? Not likely, but you will have a road map and meaningful metrics that will help guide your company to its next destination.