In our last article, The 6 Step Guide to Creating a Strategic Plan that Works, we discussed an easy 6-step process to consider when strategic planning. During strategic planning, it’s important to create a clear format for your team to execute. Here are the five things you must include in your strategic plan format.
1. EMPLOYEE FEEDBACK
Not everyone will be able to be included during the strategic planning process. So, it might be productive to collect employee feedback prior to the planning process. This feedback could give you a better look into the engagement levels of your team. Have an outside resource help you collect feedback so that you receive meaningful results opposed to complaints about the drinks at the last office party. Remember, if you conduct feedback from your employees, remind them that they were heard and that you are working on a plan to improve.
2. IDENTIFY YOURSELF: WHAT IS YOUR MISSION, VISION AND VALUES?
Mission: Your mission is the “game” you are playing, also known as: what you do. If your company already has a mission statement—just review it and discuss it. If you don’t have a mission statement, make sure to essentially highlight the core of your organization. Capture the spirit of the statement but don’t spend too much time finding the “perfect wording.” Remember, a mission statement is internal, so this isn’t marketing material.
Vision: If the mission is your “game” then the vision is what “winning the game” is like. Once you create a vision statement—go further. Discuss growth, the benefits, discuss what complete success looks like, this will be essential in the planning process. You may never fully achieve your vision but, it allows your team to set goals and know what to focus on.
Values: When you touch on the values of your company, ask your participants to think of someone within the organization who exemplifies what the company should be. Have them write down 2-3 adjectives to describe that person. Brainstorm and combine the adjectives on a whiteboard. These ideas will be your proposed values. Next, test your team to see if they are committed to the values. For example, if your company values honesty, ask if they would tell a customer about a mistake if they didn’t need to know about it. These kinds of questions will set the “rules” of the game that your company is playing.
3. SWOT ANALYSIS
A SWOT analysis isn’t a new concept but it’s powerful and effective when discussing the current state of your organization as well as the current state of the market you are in. Essentially, you’ll brainstorm a list for each. Strengths and Weaknesses will focus on the internal functions of the company (ex: product quality, communication, etc.). Opportunities and Threats should be external (ex: competition, regulations, etc.). While making the lists, be sure to have open conversations about the lists to make sure your group is aligned. If you listen carefully throughout this exercise, you will start seeing patterns arise that will give insights to your potential Key Objectives. A good tip for the facilitator is to write down potential Key Objectives as they come up. For example, if the team talks frequently about how communication across departments creates lots of challenges, a Key Objective might be to “Improve Communication Across Departments.”
4. KEY OBJECTIVES
Think of your company as a car. Your values are the rules of road (speed limits, signage, lanes). Your mission talks about the type of car you are driving and the purpose of your drive. Your vision is your ultimate destination. Your strengths and weaknesses reflect the features of the car (gas mileage, A/C, radio) and your opportunities and threats speak to the environment (weather, traffic, construction). With all of this information, you know that you can't arrive at your ultimate destination within the next year, so you need to establish a milestone between where you are and where you want to go. This milestone is described by your Key Objectives. Another way to think about this is to look ahead a year and think about where you want to be. This could also be done for different periods of time, but we find that a year is usually the best time frame. Examples of Key Objectives might be to "Increase Sales by 10%" or "Improve our Quality". There are some experts who will strongly recommend that you put measurable metrics to these, but really it is just important that you know if you have accomplished the Objective.
As I’ve mentioned time and time again, Strategic Plans fail because they become too unwieldy and complicated. People will read these plans but after, they are lost and don’t know where to start. One way to avoid this problem is by using STEP’s. STEP stands for Strategic Team Engagement Project, but it’s also an actual step towards your Key Objectives. A step is clear and has a beginning and end. For example, if your Key Objective is "Improve Communication Between Departments", you might launch a STEP that pulls 2 departments together to determine how they can improve communication. At the core of a successful STEP team is Team Engagement. Often times, management thinks they need to execute the Strategic Plan, when in fact, they just need to empower the plan. STEP's work best when the impacted stakeholders are part of the creation of the change. This creates automatic buy-in to whatever the STEP team creates.
Implementing these 5 things within your Strategic Plan format will help your company create a clear, simple and realistic Strategic Plan.