Strategic planning is a process that when done right can set an organization on the road to excellence. When a fundamental change happens or every few years, the internal and external stakeholders sit down and discuss where the organization has been, where it stands, and where it is headed. They consider the changes or opportunities on the horizon. Strategic results can be achieved with the right approach to the process. Here are 5 tips that ensure strategic planning success:
- Prepare for the plan- It is necessary to have a timeline, objectives, a budget, and the leadership to make a strategic plan a reality. Lack of planning could derail the organization’s best efforts to set a new direction. When a plan is in place, it is essential to share the plan output, especially the goals with the whole organization. This includes posters, emails, and the reinforcement of two to three key objectives at every meeting. Repetition and buy-in from the entire organization will ensure that there is a commitment in place.
- Focus is key- The planning process should yield two or three key operational goals and two or three key financial goals for the organizations. The idea that a plethora of goals is necessary for planning success is a myth. It shifts focus from what is truly important. Focus is the most critical element of a successful plan. Therefore, it is advised to drown out the noise and stick to the goals that will make a difference.
- Build an inclusive team- Successful strategic planning needs the right people both internally and externally that will facilitate the process. Leadership should develop a list of staff, board members, external stakeholders, and specialists whose expertise and experience will guide the planning process. It will pay off for this group to be inclusive. Oftentimes, planning meetings are limited to the most senior executives. However, junior staff could also lend a valuable perspective. An ideal facilitator for strategic planning is someone outside the organization with solid leadership experience. This facilitator can ask the tough questions without it being personal. He can also keep the planning process on track, challenge the company status quo, and make sure that objectives are achieved.
- Stick to the winners- A plan that invests in the organization’s winners is smart. Whether products, people, or services- the best performing parts of an organization are a good bet in the long term. Some organizations make the mistake of trying to lift the mediocre performers to another level while taking the high performers for granted. Instead, of allocating resources into things that do not work, stick with the ones that do.
- Strive for implementable plans- What is the most common problem with strategic plans? Plans that are developed at a high level with great detail that gives little thought to implementation and ongoing operations, and review. This can be fixed by having senior staff and outside experts that have experience with implementation, ongoing operations, and review. They will be constructively critical of recommendations that have not been thought out in regards to budget, effectiveness, or time.
Finally, successful strategic planning requires multiple moving parts. From shareable plans to a diverse, inclusive team which will focus on the most important goals for the organization to achieve. These tips provide high-level guidance for a complex, rewarding process which sets the course of an organization.