We can all agree.
2020 has decimated most strategic plans.
With 2021 planning upon us, I thought I’d share some keys to creating durable, sustainable plans designed to withstand disruption.
To get started, I offer an important observation.
Organizations often confuse goals and priorities with strategy.
Perhaps you’ve seen it, too.
And if you haven’t, this post may have you re-examining your current strategic plan and the process you followed to get there.
In your plan, you may have “strategies” like:
- Take our place on the Inc. 5000 list by year 3
- Achieve market dominance in our industry category with revenues of $100M by year 5.
- Achieve double-digit profitability by year 5, by consolidating two global operations into one.
- Improve our direct-to-consumer conversion rate by X%
Each of these is very important, and any well-meaning leadership team should be proud of the hard work and many meetings they held to get there.
There’s a catch.
When these “strategies” are not achieved, it’s hard to figure out or quantify steps in the process that broke down.
The other side of it is if/when these are met or exceeded. There’s a lot of back-patting and bonus-awarding, but the firm frequently misses documenting best practices and repeatable processes that got them there.
With a focus on the “what” – they overlook the “how” – they got there.
Let’s explore a non-business example.
You may like to train for athletic events when you’re not thinking about corporate strategy.
Say you want to train for a 100km bike race next year.
And let’s say there’s a specific time you are trying to beat compared to this year.
Saying that you want to beat your time by ‘X’ from last year is a goal, not a strategy.
The strategy comes in the activities you will complete and, perhaps more importantly, WON’T do in hitting the target.
If you followed rigor for this year’s race, then it should serve as a great jumping-off point to analyze what you did (and didn’t do) this year to improve next year.
In your plan to reach the goal, you have a specific set of documented activities (preferably measurable and actionable) with clear milestones (or mini-goals).
In race training, these can break down into technical things like measurable improvements in perceived exertion, heart rate, and power output.
Each of these milestones is part of a strategy, fine-tuned to be repeatable and optimized to hit the goal.
When any of these suffer, there should be ways of knowing (or at least testing) why.
For example if your endurance is off during a training session, perhaps you went off your nutrition plan, were up late the night before missing critical shut-eye, or went too hard weight training the day before.
With a firm handle on goals around nutrition, sleep, and weight training, you can track that to the milestones that you have deemed necessary to hit the goal.
The entire process of “how” you got there is the strategy. The “what” you achieve along the journey are milestones.
The end result is your goal.
Without the proper documented planning, process, systems, and measurements in place along with the strategy, there is no way to say why you did or did not hit your goal.
So, getting back to work, here are my five keys to effective strategic planning and execution.
1. Begin with the end in mind.
Set your end goal and make sure it’s actionable and measurable regardless of people, process, and technology you currently possess to measure.
2. Ask ‘why’ (a lot!).
Challenge yourself and colleagues as to why the goal is essential. This should create spirited discussions and may be the hardest part of the process.