A few nights ago, I was having dinner with some friends, who are also business colleagues. A question came up at the table re how one the guys approaches strategic planning. He is the CEO of Financial Institution [a large Credit Union to be specific]. His answer was interesting based on the changing times we live in. If organizations do strategic planning at all it tends to be a budgeting exercise at best. The comment that he made is that their plan is out of date within 60-90 days based on projections they made that have not materialized largely based on uncontrollable external factors like interest rates and currency.

We are proponents and aficionados of building One-Page Strategic Plans. This is a tremendous tool for focus, alignment and execution purposes. Although you may take a three-year view to the broader planning horizon, it is really a series of 90 day plans that roll up into a Fiscal Plan of Goals and Execution Priorities. When used properly, it allows teams to discuss the enabling action plans required to achieve their execution priorities on a weekly basis. You can openly discuss progress, bottlenecks and support required to execute. This creates alignment, eliminates surprises and reduces drama within the business.

This approach to strategic planning has also proven to simplify the process and to bring the plan to life across the business. Within most businesses, 95% of employees have no idea what the strategy is or the role they need to play to help the company achieve their goals. This does not help execution and creates a huge employee engagement void. Part of the challenge, even if there is a plan, is that is gets created, presented and then sits quietly on the shelf for the next 12 months.

I do think the planning cycle comes down to those 90-day increments. It provides the ability to adjust or reset goals based on what has happened in the previous 3 months. It aligns or re-aligns the business and again re-energizes the plan. With continual communication throughout the organization of where you are going and what you need from each individual to get there, you may also see required culture change if accountability is an issue.

For many, planning or budgeting season is on the horizon. It is an opportunity to challenge the current approach based on whether it achieves the desired outcomes or not. Change is hard and so is taking the time to plan when we are all time and resource constrained.

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