One of the key aspects of strategic planning is decision making. Many organizations struggle to make strategic choices, and end up taking on too many initiatives. This leaves them with their resources spread thin, potentially leading to incomplete or poorly completed strategies. To make matters worse, without goals, many organizations don’t track or monitor their plan’s progress.
Here’s a breakdown of this article:
- What is prioritization & why is it important?
- What issues will arise if you don’t prioritize?
- How is prioritization done?
- Why is goal setting important for prioritization?
- What are SMART goals?
- Example of a Strategic Priority & Aligned Goals
What is prioritization & why is it important?
Prioritization is the act of deciding what is more important and what is less important. Prioritization will help your organization and your people focus on the most urgent and necessary initiatives to reach your vision (while also addressing your top risks).
By focusing most of your resources on 3 to 5 priorities over the course of 1 to 3 years, you will be able to make significant progress in a few areas, rather than small progress in many areas.
What issues will arise if we don’t prioritize?
When organizations lack prioritization, several issues can arise. People may lack the resources (time, money, staff) they need to accomplish everything they are responsible for, which can result in stress, apathy, overwork, and a negative workplace culture.
People may push off proactive communication if they feel they don’t have time to connect, which could result in deeper silos throughout the organization.
If teams manage to make some progress without burning out, it’s likely marginal progress in several areas, rather than significant progress in a few areas.
Goals may not be met or deadlines may be pushed back. Instead of being proactive and thinking strategically, your people will likely be more reactive, and focused solely on operations and maintaining status quo.
Without prioritization, your people won’t know where they should focus their attention. They may operate in silos, working towards what they feel is important, rather than having alignment around the priorities that will help the organization accomplish its vision and mission.
How is prioritization done?
The best practice for prioritization is to choose between three to five strategic priorities for the duration of your plan. Setting too few may not be ambitious enough, while setting too many will spread your resources too thin.
These areas of focus will help your team with the next critical step: setting goals and KPIs. When choosing your strategic priorities, it’s important to make sure that they align with your organization’s vision and mission, and that they also take your biggest risks and roadblocks into account.
Why is goal setting important for prioritization?
Even if your organization has 3 to 5 specific strategic priority areas, prioritization does not stop there. Goal setting is a way to determine and define the most important metrics of success in each area.
By setting SMART goals, your team will know what the desirable outcomes are for each priority area, allowing you to focus on the most important projects and tasks when you move into your implementation cycle.
For each strategic priority area, the recommendation is to set between 3 to 5 SMART goals with KPIs to define success metrics.
By identifying what success looks like (qualitatively and quantitatively), your people can start to make an action plan that will help achieve each goal.
Remember to align your progress with your key priority areas, rather than splitting your focus across too many initiatives.
What are SMART goals?
SMART goals are:
- Specific - Is everyone clear on what the goal is? It’s important to avoid ambiguity.
- Measurable - Is there a metric attached? It’s important that you can track progress.
- Achievable - Is this something that your organization or team can influence or control?
- Realistic - Can you achieve this metric in the amount of time you’ve allotted?
- Time bound - Have you given this goal a deadline? It will help your team stay on track.
Example of a Strategic Priority & Aligned Goals:
Strategic Priority 1: Human Resources & Onboarding
- Goal 1: Reduce annual employee turnover rate from 15% to 10% by May 1, 2022
- Goal 2: Hire and onboard 3 junior level employees by July 15, 2021
- Goal 3: Increase scores on annual employee satisfaction survey from 70% to 90% by December 30, 2021
If you have an upcoming strategy session, learn more about why prioritization and goal setting are a critical part of the strategic planning process.
If you’re interested in leading the strategic planning process yourself, our How to Create a Strategic Plan course will guide you through each step of the process, including prioritization and goal setting: