Strategic planning. The annual/semi-annual/quarterly thing that owners and leaders like you power through. The problem isn’t the planning itself.
That is the semi-easy part. But if planning feels difficult, but is the easy part, what are we missing?
The real problem with your strategic plans
If you’ve done any level of strategic planning, you know it’s normally a day (best case a half day) of intensive thinking and visioning of what the next 6-24 months could look like. But if you’ve done it more than a few times, you may have seen the things I’ve seen at the end of a planning session:
- The managing director/owner/leader (most likely you!) leaves with 95%+ of the tasks assigned to them. Ouch…
- The strategies are driven by a historical lens e.g. looking to the past for guidance
- The team stare blankly when you ask them what they think because well, they are too busy and no one wants to take on someone else’s goals without incentive/pathways forward
For you [FIRST NAME GOES HERE]) this often leads to the most painful outcome I see from strategic planning:
More of the same mixed with a healthy dose of dispair.
So I’ll just stop planning, aye?
Instead, let’s look at how you can get your team to execute on your plan with a few quick tips:
- Make it real – The biggest issue is that plans are often, well, unrealistic. They don’t factor in the busyness, lack of resources, competing priorities and everything else in between. What’s worse, they often involve things that are so macro that the team have no clue where to start, so they put it in the ‘too hard’ bucket. Make it real. For example “we need to do action 1, 2 and 3 on the initial wireframe of our new app” is far more likely to get your people to take action than “build our first app with $1.5 million in revenue by 2024”.
- Stop staring at the rear view mirror while driving forward – Ever see those disclaimers on financial products “past performance is not an indication of future returns”? The same can be said for strategic plans in the context of past performance. If you run an events company and your revenue was down due to COVID, it would make more sense to look at product innovation/diversification and global trends, than it would to say “ah, I reckon we will do 5% more in revenue than last year”. Stop looking in the rear view mirror while driving forward…or you’ll fly off a cliff.
- Connect the daily work to the strategic objectives – This one is a doozy. You can’t expect people to just do strategy stuff randomly without provisioning time/resources and connecting it to their normal work. SOOOO many leaders assign tasks to teams with no additional resourcing or time capacity and wonder why 80% of their actions go undone. Connect people’s work and goals to the strategic objectives and you’ll be surprised how much they achieve.
- Incentivise the hustle – Reward people for making it happen. Strategic execution in the wake of operational demands is hard work. Make sure you reward them when they make it happen and achieve those lofty goals.
Keep fighting the good fight and let me know how you’ve tackled the strategic challenges.