Hooray! The election season is finally done. The holidays are close behind, and 2013 is just around the corner. And yet a good many companies still don't have a formal strategic plan on the books. Many don't even have a meeting scheduled before the end of the year to create a strategic plan and align their team. Often executives will manage for the current quarter with little consideration for three to five year objectives or even a one year plan. Sadly, as the executives of these companies try to navigate uncertain times, they will wonder the following:
Why aren't we hitting our goals?
Why aren't we all on the same page?
Why can't our people execute without having to ask questions at every turn?
Why aren't we more prepared?
The answer is simple... procrastination. That sounds harsh but those of you regularly reading this magazine and website have seen plenty of material about the value of long term strategy. You have heard experts such as Collins and Peters, tout the benefits of long term strategic planning and alignment. Many of you know other successful companies who plan and execute consistently. So there is little question that you are just putting off what you know must be done. But perhaps there are solid reasons for your procrastination. Allow me to identify and resolve some of them for you.
Maybe things are going well for you. Or at least they seem good enough. I am sure that's exactly what your competitors are thinking too and none of them are developing strategy on how to steal your customers and gain market share. Keep telling yourself that and soon you'll find out the hard way that your business is always vulnerable to others who strategically plan and can out-execute you. This why many businesses fall into what Jim Collins calls the "Doom Loop" as outlined in his book Good to Great. Why be lazy? Taking a long-view approach in your business will insure you are ready for the next disruptor in your industry and can remain competitive.
Perhaps you would like to execute a strategic plan for the company, but can't focus because you aren't really clear about where you personally want to be in life. Perhaps you spend too much time thinking about what you want to DO in your life, and not enough about who you want to BE. In fact many companies miss their mark because their management team doesn't focus enough on individual objectives beyond the company's goals. If your people are not clear on who they want to be and what motivates them to contribute, the results will suffer and you will likely wander off course. But this is resolvable. Ask everyone "Who are we as a company and where do you see your role in five years?" See if his or her answers align with your perceptions. Taking time to consider your own future might be a good start and better prepare you to lead strategic talks for your executives and your company.
So many executives are constantly battling with competing priorities. As my father always says: "When you are up to your rear end in alligators it's hard to remember that your primary directive is to drain the swamp." It's very difficult to make the transition from working IN the business to working ON the business. But one thing is for sure. If you don't start prioritizing strategic planning you will forever be letting the business run you. The sooner you make your strategy and alignment a priority, the sooner you'll achieve goals effectively and create efficiencies that will free up time and resources in your company. You don't have to be the CEO of a company to raise the priority of strategic planning. Any individual can drive the process and show their value to the company at the same time. Here are the first three steps.
- Set a date for a 2-day planning retreat before the end of the year. If you don't do it now, you'll forget. Once the date is set you can figure out all the other details.
- Hire a facilitator or a coach. For a successful retreat, you need methodology and objectivity. A good facilitator can provide both of these things and is well worth the money.
- Engage your team. Email them this column right now. That way you'll demonstrate your commitment to strategic planning as a priority and get the conversation started. Share the pressure of accountability and you are assured of getting a long term strategic plan in place before year end.
Execute on these actions and you'll surely surpass your procrastinating competitors.