From the treasured vacation to increasing budgets or seating a new board, our goals-oriented action plans need strategies to achieve success. To turn a phrase, ultimately no plan is a plan and likely not the one you would prefer.
Why strategic planning?
In the book, Strategy in the 21st Century, Randall Robinson and Earl Young wrote, “A comprehensive strategic plan is far more than a prioritizing and scheduling process (…) While always subject to modification, it is the best statement of the goals and aspirations that the leadership team can devise for the foreseeable future.”
A solid strategic plan that has been crafted collaboratively becomes an organization’s guidebook when challenged or when preparing to elevate. To oversimplify, a strategic plan is a persistent nudge reminding an organization who they are, what they stand for, what they have accomplished, what they want to accomplish and when, and how it all fits into their industry.
The overworked runaway train analogy offers a succinct answer to why strategic planning is necessary. Imagine a train that has skipped the tracks, but keeps running. Or it runs without a conductor and a lack of direction. Thousands, sometimes millions of dollars are wasted in the pursuit of operations that were executed without vetting and planning.
What is strategic planning?
The current definition from Wikipedia is the perfect umbrella under which varying styles of strategic planning can co-exist; Strategic planning is an organization‘s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy. It is here that priorities are set. This definition is great because it applies to organizations and industries of all sizes.
When I worked in corporate America, strategic planning costs reached easily into the high six-figures; luxury offsite locations, several outside facilitators, long sessions, and rounds of golf. Unfortunately, the end result was often a beautifully written plan that sat on office shelves and was rarely if ever, referenced.
A successful strategic planning session is futuristic, yet realistic; it turns the complex into the discernible, and it educates, and informs. Furthermore, successful strategic plans take dream goals and place them within an organization’s reach.
The need for planning during a pandemic (It’s the pivot!)
More than likely, whatever your organization planned before we learned about the novel coronavirus needs modification. Navigating uncertainty requires both a unique strategy and leaders with opened minds. The pivot is our new vernacular for making things work despite unexpected change.
One day, hopefully soon, we will look at the pandemic in our rearview mirrors. Until then, it is important to stay a course. For example, when in-person events must go virtual; how is your budget impacted, negatively or positively? What will the loss of personal contact mean for your particular business? How can you adjust your goals to accommodate new achievements and desired outcomes? And how can you redefine success, make a plan for it and monitor your results? Those processes constitute strategic planning.
Ironically, the strategic planning event itself is now virtual until further notice. As with your other events, it is important to build sessions in which everyone can be heard, ideas are freely shared, but where tangents are limited and goals-planning is limitless. It is also important to use a facilitator from outside of your organization who is not too deeply entrenched in your forest to see significant trees.