Strategic Planning For Busy Executives
If your organization is like many, you may recognize the importance of strategic planning, yet struggle to find the time and resources to do it effectively. The day-to-day whirlwind keeps intruding and short-term pressures dominate your day, demanding a “heads down” focus. Still, somewhere in the back of your mind, are fears that you may get blindsided because you have not carved out the time to look ahead thoughtfully.
But there is a path that can allow you to make headway and give you “heads-up” clarity, despite your many distractions.
Many organizations are having success with a phased approach. With a phased approach, you can surface and plan responses to major issues and opportunities and align the team in the right direction. And while no one can control the future, you can control how you plan for it. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow, by evading it today.”
6 Risks of Procrastinating
Without spending time planning for the future, your organization may:
- Be surprised by threats to your business.
- Be too late to deploy countermeasures that might have worked.
- Miss opportunities.
- Be forced to change direction under pressure during a crisis.
- Have confused, frustrated employees working at cross-purposes.
- Feel anxious about unanticipated future hazards.
A Phased Approach
With a phased approach, you can capture many of the benefits of a deeper dive into strategy. Taking a step out of the day-to-day whirlwind gives you the opportunity to think objectively about your business and identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, or SWOT.
Working with your senior team, the SWOT becomes the first step to building a Strategy Map that reflects the company’s mission, vision and values and articulates key objectives and measures from 4 key perspectives: Financial, Customer, Internal Processes and People and Culture. The Strategy Map provides a framework for growth, prioritization and decision-making.
The process will help you get a handle on current and potential hazards, while driving productive discussions with the senior team. Major challenges, such as industry disruption and cultural problems, can be reflected in the map and identified for more detailed analysis and response. To keep the momentum, it’s often helpful to assign owners to dig into significant risks and report back to the senior team.
If you prevent day-to-day issues from intruding, you should be able to complete the Strategy Map in a few sessions. When the Strategy Map is finished, present it to current and future employees and make sure they see how they support the company’s strategic path. They will come away with a better understanding of the company’s strategy and appreciate your sharing the map and answering their questions.
At that point, you’re in a great position to track progress on the key objectives quarterly, and to adapt as needed in response to significant disruptions in the company’s environment. If time permits down the road, work with your team to develop a more detailed Strategic Plan, building on the Strategy Map.
Like having a good personal trainer, engaging an experienced, objective third-party advisor with discretion and strategic planning expertise often yields the best results. The advisor helps guide, support and muster the energy for the job, while keeping the team on track.
If you struggle to find the time to give your organization the strategic planning it deserves, try this phased approach and prepare for a future you can’t control.
Susan Powell Byrd is Chief Executive of consulting firm Westover Strategy, Inc.