By Laura Gramling, President, EnSpark Consulting
Sound strategy starts with having the right goal.
Organizations today can ill afford time, money and attention spent on lofty 5 or 10-year strategic plans. What’s needed now is focus, innovation, engagement and action. Strategic plans with 1 or 2-year horizons are more likely to create urgency and excitement for attaining the bold goals.
The one or two things that your organization will commit energy and resources to accomplish
Strategic plans must be bright and brief if they are to hold our attention and drive daily decisions and actions throughout our organizations. A strategic plan is as much a statement of what we are not doing (by omission) as it is a statement of what we are committed to doing. A laundry list of goals, strategies and initiatives dilutes focus and ensures mediocre results as an organization’s resources are spread too thin. Focusing on the one or two or three MUST WINs will ensure resources and time are optimized. And the plan’s success creates future successes.
Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood…
A great plan inspires action, innovation and an esprit de corps to succeed. Imagine if a plan’s goals and strategies were organized around X% growth per year and X% more efficiencies achieved. Incremental improvement is not the domain of a strategic plan. Bold goals cause the inspired to arise. For a plan to succeed there needs to be a balance between the chaos of developing innovative projects while maintaining business operations. The role of leaders and managers is figure out where to stretch and where to keep steady progress.
RIGOROUS TRUTH TELLING
Engage everyone in your organization to tell the truth about the current realities within in the organization (what’s working and what’s not) and outside in the environment (keeping abreast of the field and larger social changes)
Creating a great strategic plan generates lots and lots of conversations about … What business are we in? What is the current reality? What is possible/what could be?
Core to these conversations is ensuring that all stakeholders have an opportunity to participate and contribute their point of view, their truth. Organizational realities: what’s working, what’s not, what is happening in the industry, where is it headed are best discussed with as wide a net as possible to ensure a vivid and accurate picture as is created. Engaging stakeholders throughout the process builds commitment to realizing the plan’s success.
Align how work gets done to what matters
Engaging everyone in the success of the plan is critical. How does what I do connect to the organizational aspirations? The plan elements are not just headlines and slogans for an email bulletin. Cascading decisions, actions and projects down and throughout the organization is critical.
How we work together to achieve the goals is as important as achieving them. The way we treat each other, how information is shared, when we get to innovate, etc all provide the context for doing our work. The more we empower and engage our staff, the more we can realize our success. In other words, an organization’s values are central to its success. Again, the accountability of the leaders and managers is to ensure that everyone can relate to and is empowered and contributing to the success of the organization.
Fundamentals of a great strategic plan:
- 2 or 3 (maybe 4) BIG goals
- Initiatives that seem daunting and inspiring to achieve
- Enthusiastic commitment of senior leaders and managers
- Widely known to everyone
- Grounded in rigorous truth-telling
- The “what we do” is connected to “how we do it” (our values)
- Becomes the criteria filter for all major decisions
Leaders and managers must do:
- Balance innovation while maintaining business operations
- Ensure everyone in the organization is engaged and empowered to contribute their best
- Be commitment to the results but unattached to how to get there