Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” His point is, obviously, that if you don’t have a vision of where you want to be, there’s no right or wrong next step.
When you think about strategic planning, the same idea applies: If you don’t have a vision for your organization, any plan will do.
Most business owners know this. They know that once a vision is defined, they can create the strategic plan to reach it.
Strategic planning, or planning in general, can be done a lot of ways. You can plan with your senior leadership team by sitting in a room for several days, or you can do it by yourself on a paper napkin.
There is no best way to do strategic planning. There’s only a better way.
In order to identify a better way, it’s helpful to document your planning process. Doing so allows you to adjust and improve your process as your organizational environment and needs change.
At Aileron, we examine and change our process on a continual basis. Here’s are three 3 ways to improve your strategic planning:
1. Clarify what to focus on.
Each year, Aileron President Joni Fedders evaluates our strategic planning process and develops annual goals for the process. One year, for example, an annual goal was to update our core values. Our goals allow us to easily decide where we will spend significant time and devote resources. That year, we devoted resources and time to update our core values and chose not to update our vision and mission statements because we felt they were still valid.
Having our goals documented has allowed us to make better decisions about where to devote our valuable resources.
Even if we focused on the same steps each year, we might change how we complete or approach each step. For example, each year we analyze our external environment to see how things going on outside of our control will impact our plan. How we go about collecting external data has evolved over the years. Having this level of detail documented has allowed us to look for better ways to approach steps in the process.
2. Clarify who is involved.
When I started at Aileron, we invited everyone in the organization to a two-day, off-site strategic planning meeting. Having documented our process, it became clear that there are different roles in the process and not everyone in the organization is expected to fulfill certain roles. Everyone in the organization has a role in our strategic planning process, but what role that is and what’s expected of each employee vary across the organization. We match skill sets, job functions, and development opportunities to what’s needed to develop our strategic plan (as defined in our process).
3. Communicate why we plan.
The process allows us to discuss with anyone the who, what, when, where, and why of our strategic planning process. Clarity is great only if people know about it!
The documented process serves as a visual aid to help communicate for clarity. Documenting our strategic planning process, or any process, allows us to improve it; and this results in a better strategic plan – year after year. Try documenting your strategic planning process, and please share your responses with us.
About Nicole Luisi
As Senior Product Manager at Aileron, Nicole is responsible for the oversight and development of the strategy and structure disciplines of Aileron’s DOC model of professional management.
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