Strategic Planning: How to Leverage Your Plan

Key Takeaways:

  • Use your strategic plan to direct work-assignments and budgets.
  • Refocus your team to align them on mission, vision, and core values.

Read Strategic Planning Part II: Understanding the Process

Read Strategic Planning Part III: How to Leverage Your Plan

Do you have a strategic plan sitting on a shelf somewhere (or tucked away in a file on your computer)? Perhaps yours is printed and nicely framed on a wall in your main conference room, but has anyone ever looked at it? If your organization is like most, you invested time and money in creating that document. So why isn’t it being used? And why aren’t you using it as a powerful tool to aid in decision-making (including financial allocations), time management, employee/team alignment, and to keep focus on your mission?

Writing and approving a final strategic plan of goals, strategies, and action items that can guide your organization for the next three years is not the end of the process. Remember, the process should have included authentic wrestling with concepts, ideas, and direction. Those conversations, if facilitated well, should have resulted in greater internal team alignment, and should have advanced your office culture (again, assuming you undertook an open, inclusive approach that inherently allowed your team to build trust in themselves and their leadership).

So what do you do now? How do you keep the energy and maintain the focus?

First, remember that strategic planning is a process for positioning an organization or community to achieve the kind of future it desires. At its core, the process should return your focus to your mission, vision, and organizational values. This refocus will then begin to guide conversation and action, hopefully creating opportunity for cross- or trans-disciplinary ideas on research, collaboration, and service to your customers.

Put your new plan to work. Keep it in focus by putting it on the agenda and asking for brief updates at every main organizational meeting. (Yes, it will take time, but not as much as you think.)

  • Create agenda space to keep energy flowing on prioritized projects and actions.
  • Use “60-second reporting” on major active items. Only allow discussion when critical input is needed.
  • Empower groups to work independently, make recommendations, and bring only updates to encourage collaboration or to find solutions for issues.
  • Take time to measure success (or identify what didn’t work).

Here’s the most powerful outcome (if you use it):

  • Make it known that the new plan will be used as a decision-making tool on requests for new funding, projects, partnerships, travel, hiring, firing, and collaborating.
  • Ask just one question to make this work: “Where does your request fit in our strategic plan?”
  • If the request is not a prioritized item, the answer is “No” or “Not now.” (Exceptions for unforeseen items are certainly allowed.)

It’s been 20 years since Jim Collins (2001) said, “Good is the enemy of great.” Your organization may be making good progress on many fronts. But leveraging the process of creating a strategic plan to create organizational alignment and decisive action can truly move your work from good to great.

This is part 3 of a series. You may wish to look back at Part 1 that discussed “Advance Work” (detailing critical items leaders must consider before beginning a strategic planning or alignment process), and Part 2 that discussed “Implementation” (understanding the process).

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