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6 Expert Tips On Strategic Planning
Get helpful ideas and experienced advice on strategic planning from business leaders across a variety of industries.
With something as layered and detailed as strategic planning, it’s always smart to get outside advice. Even the most experienced strategy teams could use some fresh ideas and insights from others. With that in mind, we gathered some of the top tips on strategic planning from business leaders in a variety of industries. Here’s their advice for other organizations:
1. Start with a core team.
“Begin by building a team to own the process and ensure there is representation from all key areas of the organization. Incorporating different perspectives makes it easier to implement and disseminate the strategic plan once it is created. The team must be heard, invested in the process, and agree to goals upfront or the plan will not get adopted.”
2. Do it faster.
“Too often strategic planning meetings are long and drawn-out, but that doesn't need to be the case. It is possible to speed up strategy sessions. First, look at the process in advance to determine if there are steps and elements you can cut out entirely.
“Next, at the beginning of your planning, lay out the ground rules that include time limits for conversations, exercises, and activities, and then designate a time-keeper whose job is to call time for these tasks.
“Finally, if people get long-winded, go off-topic, or just get bogged down in their conversations during strategic planning, ask the question: ‘What are we trying to achieve?’ to refocus the conversation. When that question has been answered, ask: ‘Is there anything else?’”
3. Make plans realistic, measurable, and data-based.
“The three key differences between successful and good strategic plans are:
- Having a realistic connection between the intrinsic motivations of employees, organization’s goals, and client outcomes.
- Creating accountable, measurable activity at individual, team, division, and group levels.
- Continually challenging processes. Decisions should be based on robust, unbiased, intelligent information, not emotion.”
4. Use scenario planning.
Don't strategize with a single possible future in mind. Decision-makers are rewarded for their vision, but they need to consider the myriad forces in play over which they don't have control. Click To Tweet
“Don't strategize with a single possible future in mind. Decision-makers are rewarded for their vision, but they need to consider the myriad forces in play over which they don't have control. Smart strategists develop multiple possible visions of the future based on combinations of uncontrollable forces. Plan for both short- and long-term. Strategic planning should start with the long term (5-10 years), then fit shorter strategies into it.”
5. Test your assumptions.
“Do small tests to validate your hypotheses. When implementing strategic changes to an organization, it's easy to get tunnel vision and fall in love with your own ideas. This can cost a company a lot of money if your ideas don't turn out to be successful. Instead, it's best to do mini-experiments to test your assumptions. If you achieve the desired results, then you can standardize the process across the company.”
6. Make it fun.
“If your team groans when they hear it's time to do strategic planning, shift that mindset by making it fun. This means shaping the process so people can actively engage in and succeed at it.
“You can do that by providing structured strategic thinking exercises that take people off the hook for starting the planning from scratch and allow them to engage in productive conversations based on their areas of expertise. One fun exercise we use is called Pin Prick. In this exercise, participants look at a pesky competitor and imagine every way their company could be a complete nuisance to them. Yes, some wild ideas come up, but people start to think in a new and often unconventional way. The result is often bold thinking that becomes executable strategy. It also makes employees feel like they contributed and affects the overall bottom line.”
Strategic planning is a learned skill.
As you can tell from all of the above advice, there’s a lot to learn about strategic planning. Doing it well isn’t easy, but you have help. At ClearPoint, our software supports organizations from the initial planning stages, through implementation and ongoing execution. Whether you’re a strategic planning pro or just getting started, our software is built to make your job a whole lot easier.