When was the last time you heard someone say ‘I am going to a strategic planning meeting’ with enthusiasm? Yep, I struggled to answer that one too. In todays busy fast paced, ever changing world it is easy to think that spending time planning anything, let alone strategy, is just a waste of time. After all when has a plan ever really worked out, as it ‘should have done’?
I believe however there are three big reasons why it is worth the time to create a strategic plan:
- Opportunities to learn
- Building engagement and
- Putting the focus on what matters
The work does not have to take a huge amount of time and it can be an inspiring, motivating and truly worthwhile activity. Here’s why:
Opportunities to learn
Typically in strategic planning time is spent:
- Reviewing what is happening in the world in which we operate.
- Understanding where we are now.
- Exploring what we know about our customers or clients and our competitors.
- Analysing our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
This work can seem to take forever to complete and when it does I believe the emphasis is misplaced. It is important to understand the data in all of the above areas. However the most value comes from truly exploring what we can learn from it all and specifically what actions it inspires.
There are also great opportunities to learn from each other through honestly exploring what has worked well and what has not gone so well. To be effective this requires trust between the people involved. When this work is done well, it builds trust too.
Strategic planning is an opportunity to re-engage everyone in your organisation with why we are here and doing what we do. Good communication and getting everyone involved in some way are essential to improve engagement.
One idea might be to explain to the whole team that you are doing strategic planning work, remind them of the vision for your organisation and emphasise that their views are important for the future. Then put a large sheet of paper up on a wall in an area used by most people, a canteen or coffee station for example. On this sheet of paper you might ask the question ‘what did we learn that we need to remember in the future?’ Give people time and pens and allow them to write or draw whatever they think is important. The outcome can be insightful and is always interesting!
Communicating what comes out of your strategic planning activity is critical to engage everyone in setting out to achieve it. Effective, inspiring communication is essential here, as is giving enough time for people to ask questions. Remember that not everyone is comfortable to ask questions in a big group, in fact most people aren’t. So it is helpful to have different ways for people to ask their questions. This could be smaller groups or using digital media for example.
Putting the focus on what matters
The outcomes from effective strategic planning work are a limited number of clear goals that the organisation will work towards in the next time period. These agreed priorities for the organisation serve as the guiding light for all decisions.
Clarity over the goals and how progress will be measured leads to increased accountability for everyone. If clarity is truly there then every person in your organisation will understand how their work connects to the goals. Having this level of clarity makes it so much easier for people to work out their next steps in achieving the organisation’s goals.
So there are three big reasons why you should bother with strategic planning.
- It allows you to learn a lot about and from your organisation.
- Done in the right way it will re-engage your team with your goals and vision.
- It places focus on the things that really matter and provides clear guidance for decisions and activity.
There is one final over-arching reason as well. The work confirms and adjusts the direction in which your organisation is going and gives a sense of destination. After all if you have no real idea where you are going you are unlikely to end up where you want to be.
Other strategic work that you might like to think about can be found here