3 Keys to Effective Strategic Planning

It’s mid November: the home stretch of the year. In addition to all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, this is when many companies buckle down to do their strategic planning for the year ahead.

Effective strategic planning doesn’t happen by accident. As you prepare for your planning sessions this year, there are three strategic planning principles we would like to encourage you to use. These keys to effective planning will help you make the most of your planning time and create a more effective strategy for your organization in 2019.

Strategic Planning Key #1: Inclusion

We have observed that when people are involved in the strategic planning process they develop a better understanding of the priorities and a higher degree of enthusiasm and buy-in for the work.

Before entering your planning sessions, take the time to identify whose input could benefit your organization, and to decide how you are going to involve them in the process of making strategic choices and decisions for the upcoming time period.

Be sure to involve them in the prioritization process, as well. How you prioritize your strategic goals can have significant impact on outcome. Sometimes prioritization has as much to do with what to deselect as it does with deciding what gets added to the goals list for the next year. Having input from a diverse group of people within your organization can help ensure that priorities are set in ways that make sense across the board.

Strategic Planning Key #2: Clarifying Choices

Once your strategic priorities been identified and prioritized, the second key to effective strategic planning is to make sure everyone understands the organizational implications of those priorities.

We find the Cube model of organization alignment to be immensely helpful in this regard. As described in our book, Mastering the Cube, the various elements of a company (work processes, structure, metrics, talent, culture, etc.) are similar to a Rubik’s cube. Changing one element, or side of the cube, will affect the others. When a strategic initiative is put in place, it creates a set of choices or implications that will reverberate throughout the organization.

This key to successful strategy involves expanding on each of your goals or objectives and figuring out its implications for each element of the cube. This will enable everyone in your organization to better understand how the strategy and choices affect them, so they can make better choices when it comes to implementing their end of the strategy.  The organizational Cube model is a highly effective tool to assist in gaining these insights.

Strategic Planning Key #3: Trade-Offs

The third key to effective strategic planning is to make sure that appropriate trade-offs are made. No matter the size of your organization, there will never be enough resources available to follow through with all possible opportunities. Knowing in advance what you are willing to do without will help ensure that you have enough resources to meet your priorities.

I get emails weekly from people who are trying to sell me things for my business. Some of the things they try to sell me are interesting and intriguing, but I always have to go back to my strategy and ask the question: is this something I’ve traded off? It might be good, but if it’s not something I’ve decided I want to spend time or money on I will very quickly eliminate it as an option. Being clear on my trade-offs allows me to be more efficient, and stay focused on my priorities.

Putting It Into Practice

As you go through your strategic planning season this year, ask yourself:

  • Are you being inclusive and involving the right people, so they can gain buy in and understanding of your strategy?
  • Are you looking at your strategic goals and priorities in terms of their implications on all aspects of the organization (e.g., work, structure, metrics, people, culture, etc.)?
  • Have you made tradeoffs that help people stay focused and committed, so they’re not getting distracted or spreading themselves too thin instead of staying focusing on the things that will really make a difference?

Addressing all three of these effective strategic planning keys will help make your planning sessions more efficient, and optimize your company’s success in 2019.

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