For many organizations, the last quarter of the year is prime time for a strategic review. That magical (if somewhat arbitrary) time at the end of the year as we review our successes & failures and begin to plot & plan for the coming year is littered with leadership offsites, SWOT analyses and more PowerPoint decks than you would care to look at.
Yet no matter how robust the strategic planning process, there are three glaring gaps I often see emerge that can cause even the best-laid plans to falter at the first hurdle.
Here's how to overcome them:
The 'movement to' action plan.
We all know the importance of action planning. That no matter how great our product mix or market opportunity or new initiatives are if there's no clear implementation plan, our great ideas will stay just that. Most organizations spend (at least a little) time building out action plans to achieve their strategic objectives.
But the piece they often miss is the crucial bit in the middle. What needs to happen between the time we leave the room to the time we hit play on our plan for next year? Whether it's completing a department level comms plan, or finalizing the budget, or simply writing up what we agreed for distribution, having a 'movement to' action plan will help smooth the launch of next year's strategic plan and get you pointed in the right direction.
The new initiative plan.
Let's say you get two months into the new year and a new opportunity presents itself that you didn't consider during your planning session. It wasn't even on your radar at the time. You know, however, that if you don't move on this one, that you're going to miss out, big time! What should you do? Well, first of all, slow down. The likelihood of you 'missing out' on this if you don't move right now is probably lower, way lower, than you think. In fact, if it is going to be that fleeting then chances are you're chasing a fad rather than a solid opportunity.
Second, put the opportunity forward for discussion at your next quarterly review session (you do have those, right?). Having a data-driven discussion about the pursuit of new strategic opportunities ensures that you keep everybody focussed on delivering the core strategic plan without yanking them from side to side or worse, throwing the whole thing in the air. Yet at the same time, it provides you with a robust mechanism to pursue new avenues.
The adjustment plan.
On the flip side, what do you do with those initiatives that aren't quite hitting the mark? First, if you haven't quite achieved what you'd hoped to or you seem to have missed a trick, the important thing is not to throw the baby out with the bath water. As part of your strategic planning process make sure you build leading success (and failure) indicators for each of your key initiatives.
Second, have each initiative owner report on those indicators (quarterly) and give them the support, guidance, and advice needed to double down on what's going well, and put in place a recovery plan for what's off track. As a leadership team, your initiative owners have the responsibility to deliver their plans but you as a team has joint accountability for supporting them to do so.