Whether for an organization, your department, or a single initiative, it’s important to clearly articulate your strategy and the detailed steps you must take to ensure that the strategy is realized in the highest-IMPACT way possible. The purpose of a strategic plan is to define the overall goals you must accomplish, why you must accomplish them, and how you intend to achieve them. The strategic plan will help you clearly define your goals, help you determine what you need to accomplish those goals, ensure alignment among all stakeholders, simplify decision making and direction setting, and clearly communicate the outcomes you intend to achieve.
Once you’ve developed the strategic plan, it should not sit on the proverbial shelf creating dust. A plan that doesn’t get implemented will not deliver IMPACT, but HOW you implement that plan plays a large role in determining overall success. In this book, you will learn the necessary steps to defining a high-IMPACT strategic plan and the steps to ensure that your plan gets implemented in a way that ensures highest possible return on investment.
Defining the strategic plan
- Determine organization / department vision. This is a simple declarative sentence that states the intention of your organization. What outcomes are you intending to drive? The statement should include what you stand for, who you serve, and the IMPACT you will make.
- Define your mission. This addresses the “how” for your vision. How will you make the intended IMPACT and who will you serve by driving this IMPACT? This mission statement includes what you stand for, who you serve, how you serve them, and ties to the vision you defined.
- Evaluate your current state. Any strategic plan must include where you are now before you can take the reader on the journey of where you want to go. First, define your strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats. What is already underway? What resources (materials, people, goods, etc.) do you have at your disposal to accomplish your current state? What are the core competencies of your team and what capabilities exist in your organization?
- Evaluate your customers/stakeholders. It’s critical that you clearly evaluate and focus on your customers and look at your value proposition from their perspective. How are you meeting their goals? Are their needs shifting and what are you doing to not only keep up with their shifting needs, but exceed their expectations and proactively build capability that supports them where they are headed? An important part of this process is to develop a customer journey map that lays out each step in the customer engagement lifecycle as well as the phases of their own evolution and how you can support that in ways you may not be currently.
- Define your future state. Once you have evaluated your SWOT, you can look at the places you are currently making an IMPACT and where you have the biggest opportunities to succeed. What are the biggest places you can make an IMPACT to achieve your stated mission? Spend a lot of time on the closer in goals and less time on the distant future goals. It’s great to know where you want the organization to be in five years, but so much will change between now and then. Put the right building blocks in place and then continue to refine those distant goals as they become closer.
- Document your success objectives. After looking at both your current state and future state, you can begin to determine your objectives to achieve that mission. You need to be clear and specific here in defining what success looks like and develop a set of objectives that tie to each of the success criteria defined.
- Declare what you need to be successful. This is where you ask for what you need. To achieve the success defined in the prior step, at the given defined metrics, you need to clearly articulate the support, resources, access, and funds. You may not have all of what you need and this is not the time to start compromising. That comes later. For now, you need to ask for what you need to accomplish the defined objectives to achieve the intended IMPACT.
- Develop a plan for each objective you defined. A strategy without a plan is a dream. Dreams only get accomplished if we define and execute a plan. This is where the ideas turn into action. Each strategic objective will have its own plan. Take the time to do the work here in developing plans tailored to achieving the intended IMPACT of each goal. A very simple first step is to break down the work using the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) techniques. Then, add the resources, lay it out on a timeline, evaluate the risks that could impact the outcomes, and how you will know you are achieving IMPACT.
- Prioritize. Your goal is to develop a strategic plan that is realistic and has a high likelihood of success. To do this, you must look at all the work you are currently doing, what work you want to do, and evaluate what work will most direct help you achieve your stated IMPACT of course, you want to do it all and you want to do it all now. Consider that far more will get accomplished if you set your priorities and focus on one or two key objectives at any one time. Focus is the key here. We get excited and want to start everything at once, but your goals will then compete with one another and none of them will get accomplished with the high-quality outcomes you intended, or if they do, it will come at such a great cost in time, energy, expense, that it loses its IMPACT. Trust me. Focus. Try it. You won’t ever go back to overloading your plate again.
Implementing the strategic plan
- Communicate. It’s critical that you share your strategic plan before it’s set in stone. You must share your plan with all stakeholders to ensure alignment with the organization holistically, other departments or initiatives. You must also ensure you can get the support you identified as necessary to accomplish the strategic plan. If your plan is out of alignment with the general organizational direction or will be constantly competing for the resources necessary to be successful, you are less likely to accomplish your goals. Look for alignment and synergies in the organization so that you can all have the greatest IMPACT.
- Negotiate. In most organizations, you won’t have unlimited access to all the resources, skills, and funding you need to accomplish your goals. In this case, you must negotiate the strategic plan and expectations based on what you can realistically procure to support the outcomes you intend to generate. A big mistake that many people make in this planning process is that they define what they will do, say what they need, then when they don’t’ get it, they still try to keep moving forward with that original plan. That won’t work. You said you could do X with Y. You got half of Y, you need to negotiate delivering half of X. Not all of X. Remember, you are going to be expected to achieve what you commit to, so make sure your commitment and the expectations you set are in alignment with what is doable based on timelines, scope, and the resources (material, human, and access) you are given.
- Commit. Many people underestimate the power of setting intention. By clearly articulating and declaring your goals, you can set your intentions to accomplish your plans with yourself, your team, your peers, your customers, and your superiors. It’s OK to make promises once you have done the work to ensure that they are realistic. Just be smart about it and not overcommit. You also don’t want to severely under commit or it will look like you aren’t even trying. Do the work to define, plan, communicate, and gain the support you need for your goals to be achievable and then commit.
- Measure. You must include metrics around each of the success criteria. What gets measured can be managed. What gets managed can be accomplished. What gets accomplished in the way it was intended will drive IMPACT. Develop a strategic plan scorecard that identifies your objectives and how you will measure that each of those objectives is tracking toward the intended outcome. You can identify KPIs, or key performance indicators, a set of specific measures that show that you are tracking toward your goal. While measuring performance is crucial, you must also measure IMPACT. This is the measure of the value (i.e. customer growth) your objective will deliver, plus the secondary benefits (i.e. brand recognition) realized by this objective, minus both the direct (i.e. resource expenses) and indirect cost (i.e. opportunity cost) of achieving this objective. Without measuring IMPACT, you could spend a lot more money accomplishing an objective than the value it was intended to deliver. This can be defined and measured in a strategic plan budget, just be sure to evaluate all value, benefits, and costs that accomplishing this goal will create.
- Evaluate. It’s not enough to measure if we don’t learn from what we measure. It’s critical that we take the time to learn from the data and make better decisions based on that information. What is working? What isn’t? Where do we need to course correct? I like to use a very simple approach. Start, stop, continue, accelerate, and decelerate. What should you start doing that you aren’t yet doing? What should you stop doing that isn’t driving the IMPACT you intended? What should you keep going that is working? What should you accelerate to improve momentum or time to IMPACT? What should you decelerate to give you time evaluate if you are going to reach your intended outcomes?
- Continue to communicate. As you make progress, it’s important to understand that communication must continue. You must report progress, changes, achievements, threats, and opportunities as they become apparent. This is where you continue to bring stakeholders and customers with you along your journey and show them you are working your plan, but also an opportunity to engage others for support as appropriate. Silence will leave many wondering if you are doing what you promised. Don’t ever let that happen! Even if you are off track, say so. It means you are paying attention and actively working a solution or asking for help. That is FAR better than silence and surprises. You will never win if you surprise stakeholders, business leaders, or customers with bad news.
- Celebrate. We often forget to take the time to acknowledge the wins as they happen, but that is where the momentum comes to keep going. Take this time to share, learn, grow, and engage people along the way. Oh, and your best marketing and bragging rights come from simply celebrating the successes of your team. what a great way to keep people engaged in your journey and excite your team members!
I’m sure you are curious if your strategic plan has to have all fo these elements.
Now, go make an IMPACT!
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