When is the last time you worked on your strategic plan? Most people have to think about this. If you’ve done one in the last year, you are among the few that actively devote time to this activity, and at some level, you know that it’s important. For many organizations (and we have been there, too!), you know you did a strategic plan or business plan, and you can probably locate it after a few minutes, but you might be dusting off the cover or digging it out of a remote drawer or file folder on your computer.
If you have participated in writing such a plan, you may feel that strategic planning is a waste of time, and if that is the last time you looked at it, you are right. Strategic planning was never meant to be a one-off activity for executives or entrepreneurs to engage in once every blue moon, or when pitching your business to a new investor community, banker or strategic partner. Although a plan is certainly useful for all of those activities, the primary reason to have a strategic plan is to direct the daily activities of the business successfully to reach a goal.
In fact, thinking strategically is a core leadership skill that absolutely needs to be on your leadership team, and the basics of strategic thinking can be taught to nearly anyone. The core premise is to figure out where you want to go, look at where you are now, and then make some choices about how you will bridge the gap. That’s a strategic thought process. For natural strategic thinkers, this happens in a heartbeat. For others, this requires more conscious effort and time, but we are all capable of this mode of thinking.
If you want to launch a new product successfully, you don’t set a target date and then hope for the best. Your business is just like that new product launch – it requires conscious decision-making, clear and thoughtful processes, and a road map between where you are now, and where you plan to be in a year, 3 years, even a decade. If your plan collects dust for even a month, you are “hoping for the best” and not living your plan.
Honestly, even in very small teams, we find that all parties stay better aligned, goals are met more regularly, and activities are aligned to big picture goals much more often when the strategic plan is front and center in the business. A great strategic plan – a dynamic strategic plan – is one that is central to how you run the business. It includes clear metrics that incorporate your financial controls, your revenue and profit measures, and returns on investments in projects or products, as well as milestones to be met in key initiatives. As you measure your progress against the plan, it becomes clear where you are meeting with success, and where you are getting bogged down.
Dynamic strategy is a living business plan. You develop action plans for every function, group and individual based on the strategic plan. You measure against the strategic plan, and make course corrections as needed when a given strategy proves inadequate to the goals you set.
The software industry has been infatuated with the Agile approach, and Dynamic Strategy, properly implemented, is the holistic application of a similar philosophy to business strategy. Fail early, learn something, try a new approach. Measure everything you can, and hold yourself accountable to the measures.
With Dynamic Strategy, any organization becomes more flexible, more innovative and less enamored of its old ideas. By ruthlessly measuring against big picture goals, you push the boundaries of what you can achieve faster and further, and achieve your most challenging goals.
What would your organization look like with a dynamic strategy? How would it change your ability to reach tough goals?