We always start with our Mission Statement because a good mission statement helps clarify for instance what’s in a box vs. what’s outside of a box (used as an illustration), and it most importantly asks the question….. “why we exist as an organization”. Once you have answered this question, you need to determine “where you are now”.
You figure out where you are “now” by looking at data both externally and internally, focus questions such as:
- what’s going on in your industry
- in your environment
- your competitors
- with your customers
- what is your staff saying about what is working and what is not working
- what are your partners saying about what they like or don’t like
When we collect all that information we synthesize it into our handy little strategic thinking tool called a SWOT.
SWOT stands for S(trengths), W(eaknesses), O(pportunities), T(hreats)
Once we have identified our SWOT we use that information, as well as our collective thinking, to determine “where we want to be in the future.”
Now you may already have a Vision and that vision maybe updated based on the market data that you have just collected; or maybe you are refreshing it, but what is important about the vision is it answers the question “where.”
“Where are we going?” and is it really clear to everybody in the organization? Because if it’s not clear, you can’t create a plan from where we are today to where we want to be in the future.
So once you have clarified your Vision, your job in your planning process is to draw a direct line or the clearest path from where we are today to where we want to be, and we start by articulating our organizational-wide strategies or those things that are our “guardrails” to keep us on a straight path. Once we have those identified, we then articulate our long-term strategic objectives.
Now there are all types of different planning terms, I’m going to call these “long-term strategic objectives” so as to articulate those things that provide a high-level view of items between where we are today and that future state broken down in a balanced way as follows:
- Operational excellence
The rule of thumb is that less than 7 are always good.
Once we have clear long-term strategic objectives we then identify our short-term goals. We identify our short-term goals as SMART which is S(pecific), M(easurable), A(ctionable), R(ealistic), T(imebound).
It is fabulous to have articulated goals that go out multiple years, but you can’t always do that but if you can in your planning process then that helps you have a longer horizon so you have goals that have milestones that are due in year 1, year 2, year 3, etc…
For your first year or the year you are currently in, you are going to want to break that down into specific goals at the functional or departmental level and then at the individual level. In other words, you want to cascade these goals from your corporate goals to the department and then individual contributors.
Once you have all of these pieces put together, you have more than likely a really good plan but no plan is complete until you take about how you are going to execute it!
Everybody in your organizational structure needs to have a clear action plan. He or she need to know their piece of the overall plan and what they are responsible for monthly or quarterly.
You need to identify “when” you are going to come together to talk about your strategy and make adjustments and adaptations. Perhaps you will have quarterly strategy reviews such as January, April, July and October but don’t have your team clueless without identifying those dates after your strategic planning session.
Lastly, pick a system to track your progress so that when you come into those meetings with your goals, everyone has the same documentation and language to talk about how they are doing against your plan.