My boss wants a strategic plan next month. It’s a really short window and I don’t know where to start. Any ideas?
StrategyDriven Response: (by Roxi Hewertson, StrategyDriven Principal Contributor)
Just saying the words, “We need a strategic plan,” often elicits a groan and eye rolls. This is the response because most strategic plans come to nothing or almost nothing.
I wish I had a dollar for every ‘Strategic Plan’ or ‘5 Year Plan,’ sitting on a dusty shelf in this country. Every one of those musty shelf-dwelling ‘Strategic Plans’ cost those leaders and their organizations a great deal of human effort and lost productivity. In fact, strategic planning has gotten such a bad name many people only do ‘it’ because someone tells them they have to.
And yet, everyone likes to have a clear sense of direction, a plan, and an end goal that they believe can and will be accomplished. That’s why we need to create a smart plan of action. I call it Strategic Action because it’s about doing, not just thinking about doing.
A plan is the precursor to the action to be sure. It can even be fun to plan. When done well, planning should engage people and generate fantastic ideas — and still it’s only half the loaf. So how do we get where we need to go?
I have walked many clients through this process and it works every time. It’s simple, makes common sense, and can be shaped to engage any and all stakeholders. This is a summary, but it will give you a good idea.
5 Steps to Strategic Action
Step One: The Mission, Vision, and Values of the organization must be clear, shared, communicated, and understood by everyone on the staff and with appropriate others (Board members, key stakeholders, etc.). Revisiting the Mission, Vision, and Values statements is essential to the process even if they are just being validated. If necessary, create new ones so a solid foundation is in place first.
Step Two: Test the Vision. For a vision to be effective over time, it must be inspiring, clear, credible, and create a strong commitment in everyone guided by it. Always test your vision to see if it meets those criteria well enough to be the overarching, driving force that a great vision needs to be.
Step Three: Identify those significant few (2-3) big strategies on which you will focus for the shorter term (1-3 years for instance) that are aligned with your mission, in harmony with your values, and most effectively advance your vision. In this step you may need to conduct a SWOT analysis and an Environmental Scan look at both the internal and external factors you should be considering. By engaging your stakeholders, you give them a voice in influencing the strategies that will ultimately chosen by you and your leadership team.
Step Four: Action plan the strategies! Once the strategies are established, ownership and accountability for each strategy must be determined and action plans must be put into place with deliverables and time lines. Good communication across the organization is an essential part of this step.
Step Five: Action plan the tactics! Determine what specific actions will ensure the 2-3 big strategies are accomplished on time, on budget, and with high quality. This work is led internally by those accountable for the execution of the strategies — individually and on teams. Pay attention to both the head and heart of this process, making sure the tactical goals are balanced with the impact on people.
If doing this well requires more time than suggested, try to bargain for more and explain why. When you follow all five of these steps you will have a ‘strategic action plan’ which should satisfy any boss!
About the Author
Leadership authority Roxana (Roxi) Hewertson is a no-nonsense business veteran revered for her nuts-and-bolts, tell-it-like-it-is approach and practical, out-of-the-box insights that help both emerging and expert managers, executives and owners boost quantifiable job performance in various mission critical facets of business. Through AskRoxi.com, Roxi — “the Dear Abby of Leadership” — imparts invaluable free advice to managers and leaders at all levels, from the bullpen to the boardroom, to help them solve problems, become more effective and realize a higher measure of business and career success.
The StrategyDriven website was created to provide members of our community with insights to the actions that help create the shared vision, focus, and commitment needed to improve organizational alignment and accountability for the achievement of superior results. We look forward to answering your strategic planning and tactical business execution questions. Please email your questions to [email protected].