How to Develop a Strategic Plan That Delivers

Every organization has its own needs and reasons for wanting to develop a strategic plan. Perhaps you see it as a way to articulate a set of mile-markers three years down the road. Maybe your organization needs a strategy to drive organizational change and accountability. Understanding the spheres served by strategic planning is an orientation that all leaders need to grasp in order to fulfill expectations on strategic deliverables. Otherwise a vital link between planning and integration could find friction and, in the worst case, send plans back to the drawing board.

Avoid Planning Pitfalls

To avoid any pitfalls, it is important to clarify your senior team members’ perceptions of strategic planning. Are they anticipating that the overall strategic direction will result in a change in organizational culture or structure? Do they need a process for resource alignment or better coordination of actions? One way to assess this kind of detail is through an internal analysis that can also be used in the development of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) report.

Educate your Team

To this order, educating your team about the strategic planning process itself can create an understanding of how the process culminates into a final plan (i.e. how a SWOT is used for determining potential areas of priority, which are then developed into strategic themes). A simple flow chart may be all that is needed to make sure everyone knows the general development route your strategic plan will take.

Create an Open Dialogue

In the development and execution of the plan, there will be dialogue. To optimize these exchanges and keep them constructive, the entire team needs to recognize the balance needed between informing, recommending and deciding in order to have a true collective outcome. In the delivery of this dialogue, we can’t stress enough the importance of language symmetry. For example, are your organization milestones considered “objectives” or “goals”? Do these terms change at different strati, for say a department or an individual? There is no right or wrong answer; the point is that whatever resonates best with your organization should be identified and incorporated. Language must name the key features of your strategy landscape with rigorous consistency so that any adaptations toward a common direction can be achieved without confusion.

Create a Shared Language

After you are finished ironing out any contentions of what a strategic plan is or is not, just remember it is your job as a driver of strategy to continually develop those common nodes of understanding (process, roles, communication) as they relate to the strategic execution cycle that your organization should have in place. Commit to a shared language standard, and find ways to incorporate repetition into the sharing of ideas and concepts. Make it ritualistic throughout your strategic development and execution cycles. Remember, it takes courage and discipline to practice an art that is never fully mastered.

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