I’ve been facilitating strategic planning for a few clients over the last six months. It is gratifying to help leaders be intentional about their business — and intentional with their strategic thinking.

Leaders typically invest time and energy in designing their strategic plan. They ponder market opportunities and customer needs that their team might address. They identify performance goals that will enable their company to pursue those opportunities.

What they may not do is communicate or reinforce the strategy effectively.

How well do your department (or division, etc.) leaders and team members understand your strategic plan? The only way to know is to ask them.

What you hear may disappoint you. Leaders and team members may not be able to explain your strategy. They will likely be able to tell you what their goals are but they’d struggle to link their goals with your strategic plan.

Consider the following five-step process for crafting, communicating, and reinforcing your strategic plan.

Where
“Where are we, right now?” This first point enables leaders to take a close, honest look at what’s working well and not so well with operations and performance across their team or company. Do our products or services provide high value to customers, or are they seen as a commodity?

What
This second step focuses on future desirability and possibility. What opportunities or imperatives shall we consider? What are our customers looking for that might be in our team or company’s “wheelhouse”? What opportunities might require a “skunk works,” where we experiment to pursue a desirable market niche?

Decide
This is where you’ll decide what opportunities to pursue. You’ll look to leverage your team or company’s “sweet spot,” the combination of skills, vision, and ingenuity. Once you’ve decided on your strategic imperatives, you’ll design your plan to leverage strengths and test new pilot avenues. You’ll define specific goals for each strategy.

Work
This step is where you’ll spend the most time: working your plan. You’ll craft relevant performance dashboards that help communicate progress on strategies and goals with a quick glance. You’ll communicate, educate, and promote your strategies and goals. You’ll then align plans, decisions, and actions, daily.

Assess
Here you’ll assess the progress on and effectiveness of your strategies and goals. At least quarterly, gather data with key players and refine targets as needed. Assessment enables you to evaluate your strategic imperatives for relevance at least every other year. Effective assessment in this step leads perfectly into the next performance cycle’s strategic planning: you’ll go back to step one, and evaluate where the team or company is at, performance-wise, to plan. The cycle begins anew.

What do you think? How clearly understood is your team’s strategic plan? What additional or different steps have you found beneficial when creating a strategic plan? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

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