Imagine you are the CEO of a new organization producing an up-and-coming electronic entertainment device which is quickly becoming the most sought-after item in the market. You’re a small, independently owned company that has sold enough units in your short, 12-month existence to keep your business operating with a sufficient team employed, and an office and assembly warehouse space rented.
You see the potential in your product, and you’re ready for the next steps. You’re prepared to take the market by storm, and you know that you’ll need to see significant changes within your organization to do so. Ideally, you’d like to see the company increase its workforce, grow into a larger space, and produce and sell more units, ultimately doubling your revenue by the end of your next fiscal year. These goals, coupled with other ideas and needs, have your head in the clouds and your mind buzzing.
So, what’s next? Ask the team to work extra hours and at a faster pace? Increase the marketing budget and push the product to more stores? Seek out investors to provide a larger production budget? Maintain your current state and hope for the best?
It sounds like you need a plan…maybe even one that leverages a strategy based on your internal resources, such as staff, budgets, equipment, and expenses; external influences, such as target market and top competitors; and everything else in between.
It’s time for you to meet your new best friend, strategic planning.
Though the concept, process, and deliverables included with developing and implementing a strategic plan may vary between organizations and industries, the product of successful strategic planning is clear: develop a specific, measurable goal or (more commonly) set of goals that deliver the desired results for your organization.
Producing S.M.A.R.T. goals during the strategic planning process is highly recommended.
Once you’ve identified the goals and outcomes it’s time to determine the processes that you and your team will use to achieve these goals. Think of it as a road trip: you’re driving from Chicago and your goal is to reach San Francisco. What roads will you take to get there? To develop your process, work with the leadership team from each department and any other key players to unpack and document these steps in your journey.
When your team is satisfied with your organization’s new goals and processes, it’s then time to assign each step to the appropriate team. At this point, you’ll reach out to each team via respective leadership to share the organization’s new goals, timeframe, process, and next steps.
Finally, as a follow-up to implementing the process, be sure to monitor the progress of your strategic planning along the way to ensure you’re on track to deliver each goal you’ve set out to achieve. Set additional sub-goals, or checkpoints, based on your primary goals at specific intervals in your timeline (e.g., half of the desired workforce hired and onboarded within the next six months).
Sounding good so far? Great! Let’s explore each of these steps a bit further.
Kick off the strategic planning process by determining where your organization stands within its industry with respect to size, structure, workforce, current profits and losses, and any other major factors that define your business. Leverage your existing business plan or produce a new, updated version and be sure to clearly define what it is that your organization does.
Tip: If you haven't defined your business already, try answering questions like "what is the purpose of your business," and "who does your business serve?" Use this as your starting point.
With no specific goals rolled out to your organization, there can be no expected improvements in the foreseeable future. Take the time to identify exactly where you are as you prepare to set your goals and work toward them as a team.
"With no specific goals rolled out to your organization, there can be no expected improvements in the foreseeable future." Click to Tweet
Next, determine where you would like your organization to be within a given period of time. Whether it’s six months, one year, or even five years, a timeline for your strategic plan’s objectives must be established. Be sure to include significant milestones that directly relate to your goals and observe them along the way.
Imagine again that you are the CEO, and you’ve decided your top goal is to “double revenue by the end of your next fiscal year.” Sounds good, but what needs to happen within the organization for that goal to be achieved? Answering this question will provide you the steps and process to achieve your goals.
With your goals documented and processes prepared to roll out, you’re now ready to distribute them to applicable departments and teams. As you do, keep in mind that the organization’s goals should be shared across the business, too. No matter your role, it’s always beneficial to clearly understand your organization’s goals and refer to them often when starting new projects and continuing to evolve your work.
"No matter your role, it’s always beneficial to clearly understand your organization’s goals and refer to them often when starting new projects and continuing to evolve your work." Click to Tweet
Once processes have been delivered and implemented within the appropriate teams, it’s time to start tracking the progress. Setting up regular check-ins is a must if you wish to achieve your goals on schedule. Bi-weekly or monthly updates from leadership and key players will provide clear indicators of how work is trending and how goals are being achieved. You should also use these opportunities to connect, identify, prepare for, and resolve any foreseeable roadblocks or showstoppers to your progress. This may include internal issues, such as the need for additional equipment to enable faster production, or external issues, such as changes to the economic climate or your industry.
In any event, checking in with your team regularly is the best way to minimize and avoid any unexpected mishaps or surprises.
A side note worth mentioning is that this concept of strategic planning is not restricted to only the leadership team within an organization. Just because you may sit outside of the C-Suite at your organization doesn’t mean that you can’t be strategic with your plans! When larger company goals have been distributed, it may be best for your department, team, or even yourself as a single resource to conduct your own strategic planning sessions.
"When larger company goals have been distributed, it may be best for your department, team, or even yourself as a single resource to conduct your own strategic planning sessions." Click to Tweet
Absorb the organization’s new goals, processes, and assigned steps, and then take this information to shape your own set of goals, processes, and tasks. It may sound redundant, but your investment in documenting these pieces at a smaller scale could help you to stay on track and deliver each outcome as expected by the organization.
Imagine in our example above when the Recruiting and Human Resources departments receive their organization’s new goal of doubling their workforce. They may also receive a predetermined process in which this should happen, but likely not the minor details or day-to-day operations that will achieve this goal. Take this opportunity to reset your team’s efforts and align with the new goals by establishing the steps to complete your assignments and the resources responsible for each. Doing this can ultimately provide a level of detail for your team that defines their personal and team objectives, sets productivity expectations, and solidifies roles and responsibilities.
Let’s take a few minutes to examine strategic planning in a very different industry. Take for example the world of filmmaking. Though you may have no experience in professional film production, you’ve surely enjoyed at least one major motion picture in your lifetime. At some point in your movie viewing experience you’ve probably thought to yourself, “Wow, I bet that took some effort to produce!” Whether you were referencing your favorite car chase scene, an epic escape from captivity, or even an intergalactic space battle, the concept of strategic planning exists within.
When the filmmakers set out to produce that film, they all had the same set of goals in mind during the entire film production process. Before setting foot on the set, the cast and crew were briefed on the Producer’s expectations, Director’s vision, and exactly what they were to achieve with their production. The camera crew knew what equipment to bring to each scene and who on the team would operate each piece; the makeup department knew what cosmetics and prosthetics to provide and who would apply them to the cast; the actors knew what to perform and with whom they were performing when the Director’s call for “Action!” came; and so on and so forth with each department of the film crew.
Then, at the end of the production process, the filmmakers (usually, see: Murphy’s Law) have exactly what they need to finalize the film thanks to the strategic planning goals that were set before production began.
Imagine if these goals weren’t set and shared with the entire film crew before production started. Each day of production, multiple teams and resources would helplessly scramble to identify what their resources were, where they needed to be, and what was required of them during filming that day. The production would be absolute chaos! Inevitability, the production process would halt and likely end due to the unplanned and unconnected conditions all departments were working under.
Instead, they achieved their goal to produce an outstanding film since each department knew the specific goals they needed to accomplish and were able to set goals internally for each member of the team. With the help of Connected Planning, they brought their vision to life.
When talking about strategic planning you can't forget about its sidekick, Connected Planning. In case you’ve missed our Connected Planning-based posts throughout the Community, here’s a quick refresher for you: Connected Planning is the concept of connecting people, plans, and data across your organization in order to make decisions and take calculated risks quickly. Successful Connected Planning creates and manages a bi-directional flow of data that provides one true source for the entire organization to operate from.
Once you’ve established and distributed your strategic plans to the rest of your organization, it’s crucial that you stay connected across all departments to stay on track. We encourage the practice of Connected Planning to be led by a Chief Planning Officer within each organization, and for a Connected Planning champion to sit within each department. This way, each department is connected, and a single source of truth is created and maintained as it flows up and down stream to each department.
"Once you’ve established and distributed your strategic plans to the rest of your organization, it’s crucial that you stay connected across all departments to stay on track." Click to Tweet
Connected Planning also assists you as you track the progress of your goals. As mentioned earlier, it can specifically help when making quick, informed decisions that may result in significant changes to your organization’s processes. Staying connected with meetings and regular check-ins to remain on target with your goals is crucial.
I, like many of you, have (unfortunately) experienced the results of a spontaneous, unclear approach that left projects unfinished, teams frustrated and confused, and goals missed by a mile.
Having been part of strategic planning in film production, eLearning development, community management, content creation, and a few other industries, I can personally attest to the benefits of conducting a successful strategic planning session and sticking with the plan throughout your journey. Doing the work up front to set a clear plan pays off in the long run, but always be ready to adjust on the fly with the help of Connected Planning practices, when necessary.
How has strategic planning worked for you throughout your career? Have you seen the benefits of coupling strategic planning with Connected Planning? Have a few tips for those new to the strategic planning process?
Share with the Community by dropping us a comment below.