I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an annoyingly vocal advocate for strategic planning.
What can I say? As a former organizational trainer, I don’t just love a data-backed, value-centric, smart goal; I relish seeing how powerful they can be when we stop resisting and do the work.
Having said all of that, though, I want you to know that if you’re skeptical about putting the time and energy into strategic planning, I empathize. Doing it well: from gathering the data upfront, to finding a time you can get all of those big brains in one room, to the mental energy it takes to get everyone thinking and moving in the same direction... it’s a lot.
You’re exhausted, and you’re just getting started.
Coming out of that experience only to have your plans fall flat or the whole world change (global pandemic, anyone?) can make it hard to justify the effort and expense setting a Strategic Plan. That might be a key reason that 1 in 5 of the Wisconsin credit unions we surveyed aren’t doing strategic planning at all.
The truth is, long-term planning is vital to the health and growth of any organization. The mistake we may make, though, is to see it as a one-day, off-site, catered lunch event instead of a single step in a culture of continuous improvement. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into seeing real progress from strategic planning, but let’s start by talking about the benefits, with the help of a handy mnemonic device.
Alignment – Be honest: Is your team all moving in the same direction? Are you truly aligned around where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going?
Investing the time to gather useful data, analyzing it together, and encouraging open discussion is a powerful way to get everyone on the same page and help you understand your organization’s real opportunities and challenges as a team.
Buy-In – Once your key stakeholders have a united vision, it becomes much easier to pass that vision on to their staff.
Clear and consistent reasoning behind your organization’s strategic direction will go a long way toward unifying your team around a common goal.
Collaboration – Strategic planning is all about leveraging your assets, and you have no greater asset than the diversity of strengths and viewpoints on your team.
Robust discussions, even some healthy debate, will bring cross-departmental views into the room to make your planning work stronger.
Data – Strategic planning begins with great data, but it doesn’t end there. The real power of data is in how your team will gather, analyze, and leverage it to build success.
When you gather stakeholders to review and analyze the same data in a healthy, collaborative environment, you can make all of those data points work together for the good of your organization.
Energy- Sure, many of us may end a day of strategic planning with our brains feeling a little mushy; that’s part of the process I think. But what about the next day, and the next, and all the days after that?
Having a unified vision, data-backed and actionable goals, and buy-in from the whole team can reinvigorate your organization. It may be precisely the shot-in-the-arm you need to mow down barriers that have been holding you back.
Follow-through – If you’ve been disappointed in the past by lackluster results from your strategic planning, this might be the (not-so) secret ingredient you’re missing.
Follow-through is the perpetual motion machine that powers the most successful strategic planning results. Here’s how it works: set a plan that includes how you’ll keep staff motivated, check-in frequently, and celebrate your victories. That kind of intentional follow-through helps you sustain momentum and build on every success right up to the moment you finally meet (or exceed) your goals.
Goals – Bringing data, unifying your vision, encouraging collaboration, and planning for follow-through are all pieces of the puzzle that will make strategic planning a smart investment of your time and talent. Still, your success will hinge on well-formulated goals.
Start with the end in mind, formulate specific and achievable goals, and then take the time to break those goals down into actionable steps that move you forward. Couple those goals with a strategy of intentional follow-through and celebration along the way, and you’ll see the true value of strategic planning in action.
Need more convincing that Strategic Planning is right for you? Looking for a partner to get you started? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org today.
About the Author: Suzanne Campbell is the Communicator of Awesomness on the Exclamation Services Marketing team and the self-proclaimed evangelist for Brand Voice. She’s picked up a lot of smart ideas from a lot of amazing people in her more than 20 years of experience and you can frequently hear them on the Awsomology podcast.