In the age of Zoom, hybrid meetings, and conference calls, we hear the familiar refrain: this could have been an email.
While that may be true of many meetings, that could not be further from the truth for strategic planning. Strategic planning is essential to your business, and while it takes time, it is well worth it. In many ways, a strategic plan is to an organization what a key accountabilities matrix is to an individual employee. It offers clarity on priorities and defines the success factors necessary to achieve them. Engaging the entire leadership team in the development of the strategic plan leads to valuable discussions, increased engagement, and ultimately, buy-in.
Curious how you can effectively host a strategic planning meeting that actually makes a difference for your business and your people? Here are two key questions to consider.
Who Should Be Strategically Planning?
For mid-size or larger organizations, each decision maker at the senior leadership level should be involved. After all, to move the organization forward and grow in a responsible, intentional manner, you will need to be able to execute. Input from every area is necessary to build a plan that moves the entire organization.
Even if you are a small operation, perhaps the only leader, it’s still important to devote time to creating a strategic plan. Grab your trusted advisors and peers. Each person works on their plan and then presents it to others. Adam Grant calls these “challenge networks.” Talking through your plans with someone who will ask the tough questions will help you and your business grow.
What Should You Discuss?
While the goal of your strategic planning retreat is to establish the path forward, the biggest benefit to the process is the team alignment around the company, the mission, and vision as well as the goals. This is an opportunity for critical thinking, brainstorming, challenging current ideas, and aligning around the non-negotiables for the company.
Reviewing the mission and vision is more than just reading it out loud. Talk about the previous year’s victories and how they relate to the mission or vision. Affirm that the mission and vision are still accurate (or plan to update if necessary).
If this is an annual process, you’ll close out last year’s plan. Take enough time to do an After Action Review of the plan.
- What happened?
- What was supposed to happen?
- What caused the different outcomes? (What worked and what didn’t)
- What can we learn for next time?
After this look back, I then take my clients through the 7 Stages of Growth™ process. This model of business planning allows clients to benchmark their challenges against the research done with over 850 other small businesses. And there is a stage for every company from 1-500 employees. We look at the size you now and the size to which you want to grow. All of these factors into your challenges, your level of caution compared to building, and more.
There are several resources to determine which tracking method is best suited to your organization’s size and structure. Scorecards from “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Hurling are one of my favorites, but there are many others that explore key performance indicators (KPIs) and objectives and key results (OKRs). It doesn’t matter whether you are an owner, a director, or a clinic manager, you’ve got to know your numbers. Pick a system during your strategic planning session and stick to it.
Strategic planning starts with brainstorming and you need time for creativity to emerge through discussions.
This cannot be done effectively without the input and representation of each department. It is also during these meetings that breakdowns in mission and communication can be effectively understood.
For example, if your team isn’t showing up for meetings and work isn’t moving forward, the problem could be the mindset. Your people might understand the importance of the work, but don’t feel connected to it. If this is the case, use a strategic planning meeting to revisit the mission and reword it in a way that inspires each department to do the work.
Regardless of the planning and measuring tools you use, don’t neglect what I call the People First data. Most businesses think employee satisfaction scores are the only data point to measure engagement, but that is not the case. For a more complete picture, include retention rates and turnover by position and by tenure.
If you have a larger organization, consider data that reflects the number of internal promotions over the course of a year. This can help identify if there is enough attention focused on individual growth and development, as well as if leaders have the skills to recognize talent and coach that person to be successful. What you measure is what you get. So, you need to ensure that your metrics are aligned with the pillars of your organization. If you say you care about quality outcomes, that metric needs to be part of the plan. If you say your organization is People First, individual success factors need to be included in your measurement system.