I come across it all the time. A business wants (needs!) to outline their strategic direction. They have every intention of doing it. They know that recommitting themselves to their fundamental mission and defining a long-term vision will be impactful to the success of their business. They recognize how beneficial thinking through their long-term goals and objectives are. They want the confidence and clarity that a strategic plan can provide. There’s only one problem, though. Where do they find the time when they have a business to run? How do you keep strategic plan development moving along? Well, I have a few ideas to share.
First, Truly Make It A Priority
First things first. You have to truly commit. Do a gut-check. Is having this plan really a priority for you and your organization? If so, you need to act like it. You know that you’re going to be pulled back into those day-to-day firefights every day. You need to set the tone and communicate to your team that thinking strategically and setting aside time to engage in longer-term planning is a great use of their time. Rescheduling or skipping discussions, not reviewing and providing feedback on documents, and anything else that demonstrates that your strategic planning process is unimportant or at least less important than other tasks communicates your lack of commitment.
I know it’s not a popular choice, but I’ve found that those off-hours like evenings and weekends can work well. A few several hours long blocks of uninterrupted time can be nearly impossible to find during standard work hours. I’ve found that sometimes more progress can be made when we schedule a a few Saturday or evening hours.
Make The Best Use of Your Time Together
When you don’t have unlimited amounts of time with your team, you have to make the most of what you have. Be focused. Follow the rules of good meetings. Start on time. Dive right in. Have a plan and agenda for how you want to use your time together. Set specific goals for each session. Think of a meeting as a targeted way to get things done. It’s not a “two-hour strategy meeting”; it’s a “meeting to come to agreement about the primary elements of the organization’s future vision”. Make it goal-oriented instead of time-oriented. That will help you keep things focused on driving toward a specific goal.
Do Some Work In Advance
One of the best ways to make optimum use of your time together is to do some of the work in advance. I have found that once you get your team in place it helps to have them prepare for discussions before they happen. Have them consider their own vision, their own thoughts on the organization’s direction, etc. Have them bring those ideas to the table. Sometimes I will provide a set of “thought questions” to get them thinking. Or ask them to prepare a list of something. Or ask them to outline how a current process works. Or ask them to read certain articles. The key is to get them thinking in advance.
Bite Off Smaller Actions
Sometimes the bigger, broader work of a strategy can feel daunting and overwhelming. Break it down into bite-sized pieces when possible. Don’t set out to create a full strategy start-to-finish in only a few hours. It takes hours, days, and weeks of discussion, debate, and idea generation. Don’t try to do it all at once. Maybe set a meeting to just develop a mission statement. Have a session to outline your set of strategic objectives. You get the idea.
Assign A Smaller Team to It
It can be difficult to get a ton of people together and get them focused. Carefully consider who should be a part of your strategic planning process. It needs to be individuals who truly know your business. They should be people who can maintain a strategic outlook without getting bogged down in details.
And a small team is easier to get together and have open discussions. And they could share what happens during your planning with the rest of the team.
Set (and Meet) Firm Deadlines
It’s up to you as a team to not let things get behind schedule. One way to show your commitment is to set due dates for discussions, drafts, reviews, etc. – and treat them as you would any other serious deadline.
One thing to remember is that a strategy requires people…thoughtful, attentive people. It’s a cerebral exercise; one that requires discussion and debate. And it requires the individuals to be mentally (and physically) present. Don’t short-change the process, just to tick off an item on your to-do list. Show your team that the organization’s strategic plan is very important to it’s future. Don’t forget. It’s up to you as the business leader. YOU can make it happen.
Please feel free to reach out and get in touch and let’s explore how I can help you and your business succeed. No pressure. Just an informal discussion to explore some ideas. You can contact me on our Contact Us page, call me at (713) 907-8429, or email me at BCohen@IDiscoverConsulting.com. I hope you are enjoying these blog posts. If so, please help spread the word. Tell others about IDiscover Consulting Group and my blog. Share these posts. Comment on them. I’d really love to hear your ideas!