The strategic plan. How many hours, dollars, and sweat — from both your team and yourself — have you put into creating your strategic plan?
You spent weeks or even months sitting in meetings, reviewing documents, and cajoling your team leaders to participate…and then, quietly, the plan migrated to the top shelf and has been collecting dust ever since. Sound familiar?
A strategic plan is only valuable if you use it.
Every organization struggles to keep their strategic plan active and alive. The benefit of implementing the plan is, of course, the ability to focus your precious funding and staff on the goals that matter most.
In this article, let’s diagnose why your plan might be on life-support – and explore how to resuscitate it so it can do its job for you:
Turnover in leadership and staff have made the plan irrelevant because a new vision emerged from the new people joining your organization. To revive the plan:
Engage the newcomers in refreshing the vision.
Then update the existing plan, either partially or fully.
The plan was too visionary, creating seemingly unreachable goals with little direction in the way of performance indicators or milestone goals. As a result, people began to ignore the plan. To re-activate the plan:
Refresh the vision with stakeholders tasked with implementation.
Then define achievable, measurable goals in collaboration with those stakeholders; their buy-in will be the key to keeping your plan off the shelf.
Diagnosis: TOO PRESCRIPTIVE
The plan was too prescriptive, giving teams little leeway to exercise good judgment or adjust to changing times. Frustration with the rigid plan led people away from using it. To restore the plan to health:
Pare down the plan to clear vision and goals, and remove restrictive language.
Then give teams the leeway to use their expertise and judgment to meet the goals, their own way.
Set up easy, streamlined reporting systems so teams are still held accountable.
External conditions have changed (such as the economy, or competitors) since the plan was written, making the goals irrelevant. To bring the plan up to date:
Review every aspect of your plan, in light of changes experienced since the plan was written.
Then update the plan to cut out outmoded parts and add new goals, strategies, and performance indicators.
Then communicate the changes and get to work with implementation before THIS plan becomes outmoded.
A rapidly-changing operating environment makes any written plan out of date as soon as the weeks- or months-long strategic planning process is over. To inject speed into your plan:
Solidify and confirm your vision, then shift your written plan to a frequent and periodic decision-making process.
Establish a nimble organizational structure and decision-making processes.
Set up monitoring systems to provide accurate and current information into the process.
Don’t bother printing the plan; post it digitally and keep it alive in meetings with staff and decision-makers.
The plan is not part of your everyday management activities and routines, and therefore invisible to staff, decision-makers, and important processes like annual budgeting. To restore visibility:
Talk about it at your staff meetings, review it at your quarterly business meetings, and celebrate staff who accomplish great things toward your strategic plan goals.
Continually talk about the plan, so people know that the plan matters.
Put up posters showing performance against goals, communicate progress to your bosses, and schedule regular progress reviews to make sure you stay on track.
Diagnosis: LONE RANGER
You’re the only one thinking and talking about your strategic plan, with little support from your staff or peers. To re-invigorate interest in the plan:
Hire an accountability buddy—preferably a third party to check-in and ask guided questions along the way.
Involve your staff and peers in understanding and agreeing to the reason for (and value of) your strategic plan, or work with them to diagnose why your plan is on the shelf.
Use your third-party accountability buddy to help keep you and your team motivated, on track, and stretching further than you might on your own.
Where’s your latest strategic plan? Up on a shelf or front and center at every staff meeting?
If you have a plan that needs reviving, get in touch! I work with leaders and their teams to create new plans or refresh and revive their existing plans. Read about Thurston Regional Planning Council, where I facilitated the process for crafting the initial plan, then guided the retreat for updating it (two years later).