Time To Conduct A Strategy Review? Here's How To Get Started

Time To Conduct A Strategy Review? Here's How To Get Started
4 steps to help identify and approach any strategic shifts in your organization.

Has your organization undergone a strategic shift this year? This could be anything from a technology advancement in your market, to a new political regulation, new competition, or just a major change in revenue (either positive or negative).

The issue is that many organizations don’t consider how these types of changes affect their strategic plan—or if they do consider them, they simply don’t know how to make the appropriate strategic changes to accommodate this shift. Making sure your strategy stays evergreen is a critical (but often overlooked) component of the strategy implementation process. We’ve found that the best approach to evaluating your strategic plan—and ensuring the changes are reflected in your strategy for the upcoming year—is to conduct annual strategy reviews.

What is a strategy review?

Here’s our “strategic review” definition:

"A strategy review is the process in which organizations discuss the progress of their goals and objectives and make the necessary adjustments for the upcoming year.

Even though, on the surface, there might not be an apparent need for a strategy review, you’ll experience a number of benefits from taking the time to evaluate performance and identify areas for improvement:

  • One of the most significant benefits is that employees have an opportunity to re-engage with the strategy. Depending on where they sit within the company, some people may not be regularly immersed in the strategic plan. Conducting a periodic review brings it back into focus for everyone, hopefully stimulating a renewed sense of purpose.
  • It reinforces organizational alignment. Bringing everyone together to clarify mutual goals promotes collaboration and teamwork. Employees are also reminded how their daily activities contribute to the bigger picture.
  • It also promotes camaraderie among team members, leading to a positive, high-performance culture. Strategy review sessions offer leaders the opportunity to shape culture by rewarding actions that align with organizational values, and fostering inclusion among team members.
  • Last but not least, it offers the chance to identify new growth opportunities that could benefit you financially. Assessing current market conditions and evaluating internal performance might lead you to make a major change in your strategy, such as creating a new objective or redirecting resources, that will help you be more successful.

When and how often should you do a strategy review?

Most organizations do a strategy review once a year, typically at the end of their annual cycle. So if you are on the calendar year, then your review would take place in January or February; otherwise it would happen at the beginning of your fiscal year.

Conducting this review annually allows you to review the previous year’s results and home in on elements that might need to be changed for the new year. However, if your organization experiences a big change—like hiring a new CEO, for instance—it makes sense to conduct an ad hoc session at that time to realign your priorities.

How To Revise A Strategic Plan: 4 Steps

Below are four steps that will help you identify and approach strategic changes in a productive way, to ensure everyone in your organization is working toward the same goal.

Step 1: Review The “Big Picture”

The first thing you need to do during your strategy review process is step back and look at each element of your strategic plan. We always suggest asking the question, “Is our big-picture strategy still valid?” This is important—and frankly, it’s often overlooked. If where your organization stands has changed over the last year (or over the last several years), that will dramatically impact all of the elements that make up your strategic plan—from your mission, vision, and values, all the way down to your objectives, measures, and initiatives.

Therefore, we suggest you take the time to look at your strategic landscape to see if there has been a disruption (as it pertains to technology, politics, the environment, etc.). You could find, for example, that a new competitor has entered your industry and is changing the pricing model for the entire market.

Step 2: Review Details Of The Plan Itself

Strategic plan details include your objectives, measures, and initiatives. Here’s how to review each:

Objectives are your high-level organizational goals. During your strategy review process, you’ll need to ask, “Are our objectives still relevant? Do they relate back to our mission, vision, and values?” Your answer needs to be made with actual data, not your gut feelings.

If you’ve been using the same strategic plan for a while, it’s time for a refresh. This strategy review template gives you everything you need to conduct this strategic review.

Measures are sometimes referred to as key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics. Each of your objectives should have measures associated with it—and for each of these measures you need to set a realistic target. Any changes to your measures should come from your department heads or others in a leadership position—so we recommend holding a strategy retreat or half-day meeting to discuss any measures that need to be changed.

Initiatives aren’t one-off tasks; they’re big picture or long-term projects your organization is tracking for strategic success. You’re more likely to shift, remove, or add new initiatives during your strategy review process than you are to change your measures or initiatives. Therefore, be sure to discuss budget, start and end dates, and tie-ins to your measures and objectives before making these decisions.

Step 3: Improve Your Reports

Reports are imperative to communicating performance on your overall strategic plan. If you simply ignore your reports during your strategy review process, the strategy you’ve worked so hard to build may simply become ineffective. Therefore, you’ll want to ask the following:

  • Are we meeting at the right frequency? Quarterly and monthly meetings have different purposes, and you’ll want to be sure each meeting you hold is productive. (This guide to meeting management can help!)
  • Are our reports formatted correctly? In other words, do your reports show the information everyone needs to see in order to understand your performance? Keep in mind that each report will highlight different information; a measure report might show the owner, the frequency at which it’s being tracked, and series status, while an initiative report might show the start date, end date, budget, and milestones.

Step 4: Communicate Changes To Your Organization

When you conduct a review of your strategy, it’s extremely important to consider how you’ll communicate updates to or changes within your plan throughout your organization. Otherwise, you won’t create organization-wide buy-in, which will make it far more difficult for you to attain strategic success.

One organization—the United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU)—achieved buy-in by making their strategic plan as visible as possible internally. They used videos, progress reports, brochures, posters, and even a strategy map cake to keep the organization’s printed strategy in front of employees and consistently on their minds. You can read more about how they used this strategy to their advantage in this case study.

Simplify Your Strategy Reviews With ClearPoint
Following through on your strategy over the course of three to five years requires a great deal of work and focus. Strategy software like ClearPoint simplifies strategy-related tasks (like data-gathering and reporting) and helps to ensure that you continually focus your efforts on activities that will actually contribute to accomplishing your objectives.

As the central hub for your strategy information, ClearPoint is an invaluable tool for annual reviews. It supports your strategic discussions by serving as a quick reference for:

  • Your big-picture strategy map
  • Organizational and departmental objectives, measures, and initiatives, and how they interconnect
  • Performance data on KPIs that roll up into strategic objectives

You can easily review these items and make changes on the fly, as one of our customers did during a recent strategic review. ClearPoint played an integral role in the day’s activities. As a local government, this customer had just created new city-wide objectives. During the meeting, its administrators broke into focus groups, with each group assigned to a specific objective.

The groups used ClearPoint to link existing departmental measures and initiatives to the new organizational objectives. When they came back together, they used ClearPoint to view and discuss the strategy, and noticed that some of the objectives were not currently supported. As a result, they discussed the need for additional measures and initiatives that would help them accomplish all their goals.

This was emblematic of what the software can do: You identify needs, evaluate your options, make decisions, and follow through—all with the help of ClearPoint. Interested in seeing it live? Pick a time and we’ll show you!

4 Tips For Conducting An Effective Strategic Review

To make sure your strategy review is as productive as possible, consider the following:

  • Include members from across the organization. By increasing inclusion and flattening hierarchies, you’ll foster the emergence of new ideas. Encourage management to participate rather than lead, and all levels of staff to engage on equal footing.
  • Make use of an outside facilitator. Both the management team and employees may have difficulty seeing “outside the box.” It often helps to invite an experienced outsider who can see things through an objective lens and guide conversations around tough subjects that need to be tackled.
  • Modify your strategy as needed; don’t overhaul it. Strategic decisions are long-term in nature and involve big commitments, so in most cases, the basic direction of your strategy shouldn’t change every year. A strategy review may prompt adaptations, but the bigger picture should stay relatively consistent.

Learn from your annual reviews. During each review, you will find that certain exercises worked or didn’t work with your organization. Continue to iterate on your review process so you can improve it over time.

Want to ensure that your strategy review process is successful?

We have witnessed firsthand how many organizations (including many of our own clients!) had an incredibly difficult time conducting strategy reviews. And that is why we created our in-depth, step-by-step strategy review template. It goes into far more detail about each of the four steps above, provides additional details about how to manage your previous-year and future-year strategic plans, and gives information on what you should do if you’re abandoning your current strategic framework entirely. If you work through each step methodically and cross off each part of the checklists included, you will have a successful strategy review—period.

Strategic Plan Review
Download: Strategic Plan Review
Time To Conduct A Strategy Review? Here's How To Get Started

Tricia Jessee

Manager of Implementation & Services & Pizza Aficionado

Tricia manages our implementation and onboarding team to ensure the success of ClearPoint customers.