When you’ve been a part of as many strategic planning processes as I have, you begin to notice a pattern. Sure, each organization has its own style, practices, techniques and methodology; but I’ve noticed a few themes. Every strategic plan is developed, tracked, and then reported. It’s important to acknowledge these three stages, understand them both independently and dependently, and then improve them accordingly. High-performing companies realize that these three phases are best understood as both separate instances and entities of a whole. Organizations that capitalize on this synergistic approach get the most of out their strategic planning efforts.
Developing a plan is the first step. One obstacle most organization face as they create their plans is escaping tactical thinking. Leaders know what they have to do on a day-to-day basis to keep things running smoothly. Operational thinking is a huge challenge to overcome when building strategy. Most employees are so close to their job functions that it’s difficult to step back and think about the “why”. Viewing your business with this new lens allows for a more thoughtful and purposeful direction. After the broad strategy is understood by the plan owners, we can then build the tactical action steps. Think big, and then get more detailed. The cascading plan hierarchy is the most successful way to develop a plan.
Now that we’ve created a plan, it’s time to track and execute it. We’ve all read countless case studies and articles that educate us on the dangers of execution gaps. Execution and accountability are both strategic imperatives. If we’ve worked so hard to build a plan, we might as well have some follow through and actually execute it. Let’s not overlook this critical phase in the planning process.
Reporting is probably the most emphasized component of strategic planning. It’s very helpful and informative to view planning progress. Status meetings help to keep everyone on track and ensure the plan is being completed on time. Reports also help leaders make more informed decisions. When you have access to real-time information, it ensures we’re making the smartest and most effective business decision.
No matter what your style, the strategic planning process can be parsed out in these three distinct phases. It takes time and practice to make sure each stage is strong and they’re all aligned to the strategic direction of the organization. Dedicate yourself to this strategic planning methodology and you’ll get the results you’re looking for.