Thoughtful, strategic planning requires an eye for detail and a focus on the topics that can have the greatest effect on your organization’s growth.
Whether you’re leading or participating in the strategic meeting, it’s always helpful to “tap the brakes” and reflect on where you’ve had success in the past, where the opportunities exist for the future and yes, even what issues are impeding your progress.
Preparation for this meeting requires doing your homework ahead of time and creating a solid agenda. Here are 3 topics that should be front and center as your leadership team (or your facilitator) plans your session.
A strategic plan is not a list of tactics but rather a holistic, well-researched document that is aligned with your vision. And that’s the right place to start — to assess that your vision is inspiring and provides a strong rallying call for your team.
Is your vision forward looking and does it align with where you see your company in 10 years? Does the vision honor the type of work your firm excels at doing, is there a market opportunity for that work and is it profitable? Discuss and verify that every person on your leadership team understands the vision, can clearly articulate it, and buys into it. If it doesn’t resonate with leadership, your chances of achieving that vision are greatly diminished.
Once the vision is aligned, next create a 3-year plan that will guide you to that vision. Then look at a 1-year plan, what will get accomplished each quarter and most importantly who owns what. I can’t emphasize enough, do not have more than 3-4 major initiatives in a year. Cliché but true, we all have 24 hours, and the best outcomes happen when you’re laser focused on key initiatives.
It’s important that you have access to data and financials to provide insights into how profitable you actually are on projects with an overlay around the utilization rate. Now is also a great time to ask yourself these questions: Is this the type of work you want to do? Who are the kinds of clients you want to do business with? What’s your sweet spot? Look at who you’re working with today and evaluate whether your clients’ work is propelling you towards growth or just keeping your team busy.
When you look at the data, move past just seeing numbers. Instead, read them like a story. What are the numbers telling you? What’s the story behind the numbers? Where are the trends and outliers, what caused them, and what should your next steps be? Use these insights to guide your strategic plan that will help you increase overall profitability and maximize growth potential.
Great companies have precision around the culture of their people, clear processes to ensure QA/QC and a dashboard of how to determine in real-time the profitability of the firm. Ask yourself this: what should you keep doing, stop doing, and start doing? Your processes and what’s expected of your people should be clearly outlined. This way, you won’t make decisions based on your gut, but rather a clear and informed way that your company is working together to propel your vision.
In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins describes the flywheel effect, which demonstrates how building a great company is a relentless process until a point of breakthrough, and not the result of just one defining action or lucky break. You push the heavy flywheel continuously, slowly inching it along and gaining speed until eventually the momentum from its own heavy weight pushes itself for you in a moment of breakthrough.
Just like you wouldn’t be able to point to one single push that caused the wheel to start spinning so fast on its own, it’s the accumulation of effort in a consistent direction that will build your company to a point of breakthrough. The direction of that effort is directed by your strategy. That is what will propel you for growth. That is what will move your firm from good to great.
If you wait until tomorrow to start planning, then you’re already behind. Be sure to take significant time as a leadership team to evaluate your strategic plan. Research shows that forward-thinking execs are doing more strategic planning — they commit to jumping into this process for the long haul, because that’s how you will see growth to a point of breakthrough.
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