Often the fall season brings new goals as we prepare for the new year. It’s a great time to wrap up projects, reflect on where we’ve been and look forward to the future. I personally find fourth quarter to be energizing and full of ideas and planning.
But as we’re planning out new goals for ourselves and our organizations, it’s important to look at them in a more strategic, systematic way to ensure we’re truly moving forward toward our long-term vision.
Depending on your industry or the size of your organization, you will want to intentionally, strategically plan ahead for a year, three years, five years or even more. Considerations during that planning process include looking at what’s going on in the economy, what’s working well, what needs to be improved on and more.
One vital piece to look at is the vision of where you want to go, a critical component of strategic planning because it needs to be aligned with your mission and values.
Strategic plans also need to be dynamic enough to match the needs of today–at the speed of the internet. It’s a competitive landscape out there and technology, competition and innovation makes it so important to cut through some of the red tape and make it easier to continue moving forward. It needs to be easy to pivot and shift as the market demands it.
Good leadership relies on building a vision and aligning people around that vision; it can’t be fossilized and chiseled into stone.
Know Your Focus
Research is critical in the beginning stages of strategic planning and leaders must be willing to invite participation from other organizational stakeholders–the leadership team, customers, other strategic partners. Then target your strategic focuses to three to five maximum areas that are broad enough that they’re not tasks but truly actions that will help you move toward to your vision.
For example, your organization might focus on nurturing a community in a specific area or on a specific platform, look to shift its culture, become known for inspiring a population of people, develop a new identity that targets a specific audience.
Identify the Taskmasters
Once you know your focus, it’s time to define what the end states look like in each of those areas of focus. What would it look like if you inspire a group of people to do something amazing? If you were to attract a new group of people to your organization? Only then can you decide who can help to implement the vision–one of the most difficult parts of strategic planning.
Rolling Work Plans
As you start planning out those tasks that will help you meet your objectives for reaching your vision, think about how the work toward that big vision is never quite done. A vision that you want to accomplish in the next five years feels really far off.
With rolling work plans, you accomplish one objective and then move on to the next–on your way to the vision. There’s never a sense of being done so there’s no resting on your laurels waiting for the years to pass so you can create another strategic plan. You’re constantly moving.
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to set a high bar and invite others to rise to that bar. A strategic plan should be aspirational, challenging enough that it calls for people in the organization to stretch. And when you don’t invite your team to stretch, they won’t.
As you begin your strategic planning for 2020, think long about your goals and what effort, commitment and planning needs to happen so you and your organization can achieve great things. And be intentional with the way you bring other partners into your plans so you have buy-in from everyone.