Strategic planning can be daunting, especially for small businesses, non-profit organizations, companies with a limited budget to hire an outside consultant to assist with the effort, or for anyone who just doesn’t have the (perceived) requisite experience. Don’t let any of those conditions or thoughts deter you from focusing on your organizational strategy. Even well-funded and established companies may see the task as overwhelming or intimidating… but they know the value far outweighs any struggle associated with the effort.
When I think about strategic planning, it reminds me of something I saw more than a decade ago. I was running the annual Disney Marathon in Orlando, Florida, and I saw a fellow runner with a shirt that read:
“Dead Last Finish is greater than Did Not Finish” and “Did Not Finish is greater than Did Not Start”.
Translation (or at least my interpretation): doing something, anything, even if it doesn’t reap all of the benefits that you desire is a far better endeavor than never trying/starting! And it’s the same for strategic planning. The mere action of reflecting on your business is almost always worth the time you invest. Stealing an analogy from computer lingo, every organization can use a restart or reboot from time to time, powering down the organization’s operating system and turning it back on… but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a “reset”, completely returning the operating system to its original factory settings. Or to use an automotive analogy, sometimes you can think of your strategic planning effort as a tune-up, not a complete engine overhaul.
Experience with Strategic Planning
My personal proficiency with strategic planning stems from years of experience, either as a participant in the strategic planning process or as a facilitator of the process. Through that involvement, I have seen many different methods, ranging from a 1-day effort resulting in a 1-page infographic as the output to the other end of the spectrum, a several-month effort that included environmental scans and competitor analyses, resulting in a catalog of proposed actions assigned to individuals and departments.
I’ll share two recent experiences with facilitating strategic planning for clients that illustrate vastly different working environments, but similar goals of defining strategy.
Recent Client #1
This client is what we typically do when organizing a strategic planning effort. It included weeks of stakeholder interviews, environmental scans, competitor analyses, budget reviews, and growth modeling, among many other discussion points.
Recent Client #2
Much differently, this client, a much smaller organization with a limited budget and timeframe, didn’t have months or even weeks to focus on a full strategic plan. Organizations that serve others often push the need to focus on their own internal needs to the bottom of the priority list, and unfortunately (and erroneously) determine that they don’t have the time nor resources to do any type of strategic planning. The truth is that they just need to scale the task to fit accordingly. For Client #2, we reduced the planning effort to their most pressing area of need, DEI, and taught the process of strategic planning so the client could revisit other focus areas in the future.
Getting to the point!
If you don’t have time to complete a full strategic plan, below is a list of 10 tips/questions you may consider to expedite the process by executing a “mini” strategic plan:
- If you are confident in your organization’s Mission and Vision statements (and don’t plan to change them), skip that part of the discussion and move directly to (or limit the discussion to) the main 3-5 areas to be discussed.
- Use your list of customer/client complaints to drive the most critical priorities/discussion areas.
- Similarly, you may consider using the areas that receive the most internal employee chatter at the proverbial water cooler… or the coffee station… or the company cafeteria to drive the most critical priorities/discussion areas.
- Use the process to get input from employees or stakeholders on what the organization has accomplished. As an addendum, highlight which accomplishments you are most proud of attaining.
- Use the process to get input from employees or stakeholders on areas where the organization did not achieve success. Again, as an addendum, highlight which failures were most disappointing.
- Have an open discussion of what an idyllic future of the organization entails (related to the one focus area that you have determined to be the most important).
- From those previous points (2 – 6), you have now compiled a list of what’s working, what’s not working, and where you want to take the organization. The conversation can now focus on how you want to take it there, and how you will measure success/impact.
- Attach a timeframe for when you want to achieve those specific outcomes and measurements.
- Identify actions, challenges, and mitigating actions (that correspond to the challenges) that must be executed to reach the outcomes.
- Identify who within and/or outside of the organization will be responsible for executing the tasks.
Start your Strategic Planning
Developing an official strategy for your organization is important. And even if you can’t spend weeks/months dedicated to working on it, investing a full day to connect goals with actions is certainly worth the effort. Organizations DO what they measure… without formal or semi-formal metrics, even great ideas will fall off your organization’s radar!