Every leader should have a strategic plan. Whether it’s a large corporation, a non-profit, a government agency, a department, a project or a team, the leader is responsible for ensuring that the organisation has a clear strategic direction and a plan for making that direction a reality. Sometimes, however, a leader is ready for strategic planning, but their team is not, so how can you tell if you fall into this bracket, and what can you do about it?
A good gauge for determining if the team is ready for strategic planning is to answer the following questions:
1. Is there a widely held belief that there is a need for a shared direction and agreed upon priorities?
2. Are the key issues to be addressed by the plan identified?
3. Have the outcome and benefits of planning been clearly delineated?
4. Have an approach and timeline for strategic planning been agreed to?
5. Has the group agreed how this planning process needs to be different from past processes?
6. Has the team determined who should be in the room when the plan is developed and how you will gain the buy-in of those not in the room?
7. Are the people who need to be in the room willing to commit the time and resources required?
8. Has the information that needs to be compiled in advance of planning been identified, including results from past planning efforts?
If the answers are ‘yes’, you’re ready for strategic planning with your team. If your team isn’t ready for planning, the first step is a strategic plan briefing. There are several benefits to the management briefing: your planning team will gain a common view of the issues to be addressed; they will have determined what modifications might be needed to the standard planning approach; they will have agreed on a set of strategy definitions; they will have begun identifying the information they need; they will have assigned responsibilities; and executive teams typically walk away with increased buy-in and commitment to participate in the planning effort and follow through on actions.
The management briefing needs to address the key issues facing the organisation, using brainstorming and grouping techniques. Then the approach needs to be established. It is useful to begin with a standard strategic planning approach, then have the participants link the issues to the approach, ask them to identify strengths and concerns about the approach, and agree on adjustments to ensure the approach addresses the key issues as needed. Once this is done they can agree who will be involved, and at what level.
The next stage is a situation assessment, which determines the information that should be gathered and distributed in advanced to ensure all members of the planning team start with a common foundation of information about the organisation’s performance, customers, employees, industry, and competitors. It will also handle logistics, and identify the immediate next steps.
If successful, the management briefing will provide a strong foundation for launching your strategic planning activities.
By Michael Wilkinson, managing director, Leadership Strategies