As we move into Q4 of 2019, now is the ideal time to put together your strategic plan. With next year not only being the start of a new decade but also a number that represents clarity of vision, what better time to build a plan that will take your organization to the next level of success?

The challenge is how to build a plan that's ambitious enough to inspire but practical enough to be implemented. Here are nine things you should consider doing with your senior team during your planning process this year.

1. Don't forget about Q4.

Given that you're looking forward to a fresh start in the new year, it's easy to skirt past your performance in Q3 and your focus for Q4. Don't give yourself that pass. Make sure to be ruthless about your successes and failures of the last three months and focus your team on the 3-5 things that must happen by the end of the year. If you had a killer Q3 in sales then be sure to dig deep into the reasons for your success and double down on those for the incoming quarter. Perhaps you botched a product rollout. Make sure to capture your lessons learned and devise a plan to fix it over the next 90 days. 

2. Review the past year.

Once you've addressed the final 12 weeks of the year, next elevate your horizon to the year in its entirety. Begin by asking everyone on your team for the top 2 or 3 things that went well in their department this year and what 2 to 3 aspects they would do differently. Trap their ideas on flipcharts and then transfer them over into a shared document to have them in one central place. Take a moment to review the successes of your team across the whole year. This gives you the momentum to take into your discussion for next year. 

3. Dust off your vision.

It's essential to set your planning for next year in the context of your overall vision. Any goals or strategies you set for 2020 should actively contribute to you achieving your vision in the long run. This provides a good North Star for your planning work. If your vision feels out-dated or ineffectual, now might be the time to dust it off. The easiest way to stress-test your vision is to ask these three questions

  • Is it simple to understand? (Could a 9-year old make sense of it?)
  • Does it excite you and your team?
  • Does it describe why your team exists?

4. Set your annual goal.

Decide what your one to three overarching goals are for next year. Remember, completion of these goals should be a clear indication that you're getting closer to achieving your vision. Maybe there's a financial goal, perhaps market share, potentially customer satisfaction. In general goals with quantitative measures are easier to track and therefore more achievable. For example, "50% repeat customer ratio" as a goal is easier to measure than "Deliver good customer service.'

5. Brainstorm your strategic initiatives.

Split the team up into groups of 3-5 and give them each a goal for the year. Have them brainstorm 3-5 strategic initiatives that would help bring you closer to achieving that goal. A strategic initiative is a focused project for that year that will add up to realizing that annual goal. If you successfully execute your strategic initiatives, you should be fairly certain you'll achieve your annual goal.

6. Prioritize your initiatives.

It would be great if we could successfully implement every great strategic idea we have. The reality is that most teams are working with limited resources. That means you need to assign a level of prioritization on the strategic initiatives in front of you. Batch them together into categories of 'must-do' and 'nice to do.' If there are priorities that will likely compete for resources, agree which are most important. Then finalize your list.

7. Agree on accountability.

For each initiative, have the group agree who will be accountable for implementation. If you have the time, get them to draw out the key milestones throughout the year that you need to hit to complete the initiative.

8. Build a communications plan.

Agree, as a group, what needs to be communicated to the broader organization, who will deliver it, and when that is to happen. A town hall-type meeting with all employees is a great way to kick off a new strategic plan. It should be followed up, however, with individual leaders sharing the plan in a smaller setting with just their team. The key to a successful communication plan is consistency and repeatability.

9. Define how you'll make adjustments.

Finally, in an attempt to avoid your strategic plan from being put in a drawer only to collect dust and be forgotten about, agree when you will next review. In addition to that, make sure you have agreed to a process for making changes to your plan as the year progresses.