I’ve read some advice about not wasting time planning and just getting to work. I’ve also seen that plan, or lack-thereof, in action and while you may be able to yield some results, the long term impact will reflect the “winging it” strategy.
Get your team on the same page
Creating an effective plan for your business needs to start at the top and create a solid foundation for the purpose and vision of where you want the company to go.
Start with a top-level business planning session with the leadership team - the group that is responsible for setting the company vision and guiding the strategy. Keep it to the core leadership team as too many cooks can create a no-decision scenario.
Use a facilitator for this planning; without facilitation to draw out some participants and keep others from dominating, it can be a very ineffective use of everyone’s time. An important reason for bringing in a facilitator rather than using a team member is that it allows all team members to fully participate in the discussions. However, before you make the commitment to using someone for this important project, it’s essential to understand his or her methodology and style.
- I’ve seen an in-house run session where the team member/facilitator was following instructions downloaded from the Internet and clearly had never conducted such a session. You can imagine that it wasn’t extremely effective.
- I’ve seen a facilitated session where the outside consultant had a conflicting method and style from the leadership team and the whole thing fell apart mid-session, never to be completed.
I’ve also seen great sessions run extremely well with fantastic outcomes. The point is that there are about as many different strategies for running a strategic planning session as there are facilitators. The important points to keep in mind:
- Have a connection with the facilitator
- Know the methodology to be used and the goaled outcome of the session
- Have a clear idea of time commitment
Bring in other team members & build on the plan
After developing a solid plan which outlines the vision and defines the business needs in order to carry out the vision, it’s time to begin the tactical phase of your planning. This is the point where you bring in your implementation teams – maybe it’s a marketing manager, operations manager or customer service manager.
Share the strategic plan and then have this implementation team drive the tactical planning. They are now building the road to support the vision. It should be done collaboratively, but with a level of autonomy and respect for the knowledge of each discipline to be the experts – ultimately answering back to the company vision and business needs.
If you create these tactical plans separately, without the company vision and core needs being the foundation, you’ll likely end up running multiple programs with overlap, wasting resources, and probably developing unnecessary projects that don’t even support the vision of the company.
The theme of these tactical plans should be: If it’s not in alignment with the core identified needs – cut it.
Time to Implement!
The timing of this planning is completely up to you. You could have a one day planning session and then have your team turn around tactical plans in a day or two. You could have a 3 day planning session and spend 3 weeks creating tactical plans with multiple review sessions in between. The timing is largely dependent on the business leader, the sense of urgency, and the company culture. But timing is not the important part; having a rock solid idea of what you’re doing, how you’re going to do it, and everyone on the team knowing it and making it their daily mission to carry out the vision of the company through the plans is the important part.
Remember, a plan is only worth what importance you place on it and the effort you put into it. If it’s destined to be a dust gatherer, then you might want to consider the winging strategy instead.