Having a Plan

Posted On April 9, 2018 By Advance Blog

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strategic planning for maryland business

About a year ago, our leadership team started to work through a strategic planning process that if followed to the T would walk us through several exercises, challenge us to take an honest look at our organization and collaborate on where we can and will be in the future. What I didn’t mention is that this leadership team was not comprised of naturally patient individuals. Almost everyone on the team, myself included, thrives on results and has an appreciation for the short road. This exercise would challenge everyone in that room. It was not the short road, it was truly a journey, a term that has now become a buzz word in our organization. What we didn’t realize at the start, was what the journey would do for us as individual leaders, our team as a cohesive group and our organization’s overall health. The results were incredible. Those who don’t know all of the steps in the journey may even call the transformation “magical”. The members of the leadership team changed the way we carried ourselves in the organization and showed true cohesiveness to the rest of the organization. We provided our people with clarity to our goals and expectations and they began to take extreme ownership in achieving those goals. Everyone began to feel as though they were part of something and the inclusion was transformational. There began to be a buzz throughout the entire company and it was incredible.

I am sharing this experience with you not as a boastful excerpt, rather from one “get it done” individual to another, I want to emphasize the importance of transforming our vision of strategic planning from folks in a room putting thoughts to paper, to an organizational journey. Be patient and appreciate the ride, the results will be greater than you could imagine.

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You may not realize it, but part of what got you and your business to where it is today is your ability to think long term and strategically. What separates great businesses from good businesses is the ability of its executive team to cascade that vision to the entire organization in a way that motivates every employee in every area of the company to act in a unified manner towards a common goal in lock step with their core values and principles.

Often times, your natural ability to design and execute a complex plan in your head competes with your ability to work through that process with others, put the plan on paper, and clearly cascade it to your organization. The value of walking through the journey of who we are today, where we want to be and how we will get there is one that will fundamentally change your organization if done correctly. It is impossible to fit an entire process in one article, so here is the general framework our team followed as we went on this journey as food for thought. It is important that you find the steps that work best for you and your team and possibly even a trusted advisor to guide you through the process. The end result, if done correctly, will be every member of your organization having clarity to the plan and more importantly, their part in it.

How Much Time Do We Need?

We keep calling it a journey because that is precisely what it is. It is more than just going through the motions, it is changing mindsets and aligning your entire team around where you need to go as an organization. That journey can take days, months or longer. We can’t emphasize enough the importance of having your entire team go through this together and then championing it throughout the organization. The length of time should be as long as it takes everyone on your team to contribute, comprehend and buy-in to each step in this process.

Why Are We Doing This?

We as business leaders take this journey to arrive at the following benefits:

  • We will provide clarity to what is a priority and which resources should be allocated where
  • Forces us to make choices on what we will and won’t do in the future
  • Rallies the entire organization around a single plan or end game
  • Eliminate siloes and short term thinking
  • Set expectations and clear measurements for hitting goals and objectives
  • Ultimately improve performance

Now for the Framework:

We loved the exercises provided in a Strategic Planning workbook that takes you through every component down to actionable details. There are many out there, so it is important to find something that you and your team can work through.

Step 1: Agree on where you are now.

This is the assessment phase. It is impossible to get to where you are going without agreeing on where you are at this moment. Look at your environment—the industry, your competitors, how you got to where you are today. We loved going back to basics and using a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on top of our situational analysis to gain excitement and alignment on where we are today.

Here is an easy overview of what a SWOT Analysis is, how to do it and why it is important. 

Step 2: Paint the Picture of Where You Want to be.

This is more than just a growth number or goal you want to hit. It is everything from how your employees should act to how you want to be perceived by the external world.

This is the top of the pyramid if you are following the strategic Planning model we outlined above.

  1. Start with Your Mission Statement. Why do you exist as a company? This should be unique to your organization. Ask yourself – could my competitor use this same statement? If so, it is not embodying why you specifically exist.
  2. What is your Vision Statement? Who do you want to be? This should be the mantra for your employees to live by.
  3. Establish Your Goals. These should be high-level and look at your organization at a macro-level. Outline what you must achieve to be successful.

Mission Statement Exercise
4 Questions for a Great Mission Statement
Simplify Your Vision Statement

Step 3: Move into Action.

Taking into consideration why you exist, who you want to be and what it will take to be successful, start working through the action plan to get there.

  1. Outline Your Objectives. These should be specific outcomes that are measurable and ladder up to your goals.
  2. Map Out Your Initiatives. If you are an operational person, this is your fast ball. Put in writing the major initiatives you need to accomplish in order to be successful. These should be outside of your day-to-day actions that are necessary for typical business outcomes.
  3. How Will You Measure Success? It has been said that you can’t change what you don’t measure. Make sure before you start with any initiative you have a way to measure progress.
  4. Establish Clear Targets for each Initiative. A team will rally around a target so make sure you have established what success looks like and continue to monitor how you are tracking towards your target.

Step 4: Adjust Your Plan.

The most successful plans are not those that hit the mark on the first try (that is nearly impossible). Successful plans are those that are monitored and adjusted as needed. As you track your team’s progress towards the targets you’ve outlined together, take time to optimize your action plans to ensure you hit your mark.

Once you have a strategic plan defined for your organization, brainstorm ways that you can share it with every area in the company and tie each employee to their impact on the plan. As you set out to achieve your goals as a team, remember to cascade the vision frequently, share measurable results and celebrate the wins along the way. You may find that the journey itself will have the greatest impact on your organization. 

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About Advance:

Advance Business Systems helps organizations focus on their core mission by providing technology that can increase efficiency and effectiveness and services that eliminate the distractions that many organizations face.

Managed Services:

The right resources and a plan are critical to an organization achieving and exceeding their goals. Advance provides services such as IT planning and support that will take IT off your plate, keep you from worrying about data security and position your business for the future.

Business Technology:

Having the right business technology solutions in place, such as multifunctional copiers, interactive white boards and document management software, can greatly improve the flow of information through an organization.