Organizations find a cadence for planning and execution. For some, planning their business is rhythmic and routine, and for others more ad-hoc and choppy.
The discipline required to be successful at strategic planning is not innate in the human condition. It requires creating methods, habits and norms that perpetuate a desired process, and that takes energy and patience only employed by the best CEO’s. Such habits will rarely occur without the complete buy-in of senior management.
The only way to establish such discipline is to have a repeatable process. Best-in-class organizations typically have multiple strategy events per year. For some, perhaps it is an annual retreat and quarterly follow-ups. For others, it is a semi-annual retreat followed by monthly check-ins that focus on execution. It is not as important what system you use for strategic thinking, as it is that you have a system you can commit to.
Once such a methodology is understood, certain norms begin to take form. Mid-management can rationalize their contribution to the greater good and develop their own methods for applying the strategy to their organizations. For many companies, strategic planning includes:
- Gathering research about the market and operating environment
- Gathering input from front line staff
- Gathering additional information about their current state
- Formulating the mission, values, vision, goals and strategic initiatives
- Conveying the mission, values, vision, goals and initiatives to their employees
- Establishing departmental goals and infrastructure requirements necessary to implement the strategy
- Creating a performance management system that is in alignment with the company’s core competencies
- Measuring the effectiveness of execution in real time
Many organizations have such a cascading routine for budgeting, and the same thinking applies to the formation and execution of strategy. Often the strategy discussion precedes the budgetary process and the timing of the two are linked. It is for this reason that one cannot think of planning as a single event (such as an “off-site”) but as a cycle. As such, your plan is never really complete—it is a working document that must continue to change as new market conditions present new threats and opportunities.
Organizations also need to change things up to foster new thinking. Some meetings can be structured and organized and others need to be free-flowing brainstorming sessions.
Whatever your process, provide an environment that will guarantee that your team continues to think about the broader picture and how you can maintain your strategic advantage.