The most successful leaders and strategies possess two distinct qualities; they are both consistent and agile. These two traits working in tandem push organizations to remain dedicated to their strategic planning cycle with the flexibility to adapt to ever-changing markets and consumer needs.
If your organization is struggling with consistency or rigidity, you aren’t alone. This image from from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) by John Coleman articulates common issues organizations face when their organization has an imbalance between consistency and agility:
If your organization’s planning and execution efforts are faced with any of these challenges, consider taking a step back and asking these two questions:
1) Are we being consistent with our strategic planning cycle and ongoing plan management?
One of the biggest challenges we see organizations face is losing sight of their strategy during their day-to-day operations. If you answered no to the question above, consider these tips on how to make planning a more consistent effort within your organization:
- Make execution part of your everyday – Execution isn’t something that happens in days or weeks. It takes ongoing dedication and incremental achievements to reach your organization’s strategic objectives. While easier said than done, make sure your daily activities support your organization’s strategy and vision. Getting stuck in day-to-day operations is a surefire way to derail your organization’s strategy.
- Hold consistent strategy reviews – While there isn’t a perfect formula as to how often each organization needs to hold strategy reviews, we recommend holding them at least quarterly. Looking at your progress against your target consistently gives your organization a clear picture of your performance and what priorities need your attention. Just remember, strategy reviews aren’t meant to solve operational issues. They’re meant to measure and analyze your strategic performance.
- Hold consistent planning sessions annually – Strategic planning isn’t just something you do once every five years; it’s an activity you should complete annually. We’re not saying you need to rip apart your plan and start every year from scratch, but plans should be updated at least annually.
2) Are we adapting to meet the needs of our market, consumer, or internal team?
One thing is consistent across all organizations – change will always be constant. Adapting your plan to your always-changing business isn’t just necessary, it’s vital to your success. If your organization’s plan or execution process is too rigid, consider these tips:
- Watch your market and competition – Adapting to remain competitive in your market against your competition is vital to success. Knowing when you need to adapt starts with consistently watching your competitive space. Watch your competitors and note external trends.
- It’s okay to change if something isn’t working – Sometimes even the best strategies don’t work well in the real world. If something is flat-out not working, change it. Whether it be an operational process, a data source, or a fundamental activity, sometimes it’s best to retire something that isn’t helping your strategy’s bottom line.
Finding the perfect balance of consistency and agility while leading your team isn’t an easy feat. But, even if you can’t find the perfect balance, your organization will see success if you remain consistent to the planning process and understand that your strategy execution needs to be adapted to meet your market or organizational needs.