If you’ve made it to this article, you already understand that strategic planning is an important part of running a successful organization. Whether you are new to leading strategy, or have led and implemented a strategic plan, strategy reviews can be daunting. Our process of Aligned Strategy Development was created to serve as a framework for any organization updating or creating their strategic plan.
This guide will walk you through our strategic planning process, while sharing helpful tools and templates that will help you organize your mission, vision and values. We share systems and tools to help you onboard your team as early as possible to ensure team alignment so that your plan can be successfully implemented across your organization. Strategic alignment is a crucial part of the planning process (It’s one thing to have great ideas, but another to follow through on them). An aligned team who understands where they’re headed will be able to not only implement your goals and priorities, but also make decisions that serve your organization’s mission.
Whether your planning cycle is fast (every month or on a quarterly basis) or slower (yearly, three-year or five-year cycles), the process is essentially the same. Below is a flow chart to illustrate the steps, from the beginning through to implementation and review:
If you’re working with us, we begin on the first step with a 30 minute introduction call to help us better understand your organization’s unique needs. If you’re not using an external facilitator to lead your meeting, you are the facilitator. In that case, you would begin working with your team on the third step, “Pre-Work”.
Even though you likely know the inner workings of your organization inside and out, it's important not to avoid the pre-work stage. This is the time to engage your team early and to see what you want to get out of your one or two-day planning session. By starting thinking about the tough questions and by starting the onboarding process early, you will maximize your time in your meeting so that you can operate with efficiency and clarity.
We've created a tool to help you with this step, our custom Strategic Planning Questionnaire (and it's free!). This will help you guide your team to iron out your vision, develop your strategic priorities, set goals and KPIs that are in line with your organizational objectives and, of course, foster alignment across your team, and across departments if you’re working in a larger organization.
Once you and your team have worked through and evaluated the 15 questions (leaving enough time to digest and organize the information you’ve collected), you’re ready to move onto the next step, the strategic planning meeting. Depending on the frequency of your meetings and the size of your organization, you may opt to hold either a one or two day strategy session. When we work with organizations, we lead and facilitate the process, but for those leading their own strategy meetings, we’ve created agendas to guide you through ONE-DAY or TWO-DAY meetings.
To make sure you don’t miss anything important, we’ve also developed a Strategic Plan Template to help you with the process of guiding your meeting and writing your plan:
To ensure high performance and follow through on your strategic plan, before you end the meeting, make sure that you have set priorities and action items with your team members, and that everybody knows what they are accountable for. If your planning meeting consists of departmental leaders, make sure they are equipped and ready to share the strategic plan and action items with their teams by including an internal communications plan.
Once you’ve completed your strategic plan, the work does not end there. For a strategy to be successful, it must be implemented and reviewed on a regular basis. While we recommend quarterly strategy review sessions as one of the most effective implementation cycles, your review cycle may be shorter or longer, depending on your organization's individual needs and requirements. Regardless of your cycle length, reviews are important - An organization that looks at their current strategy and adapts it based on what is working and what is not working has the opportunity to catch problems before they spiral out of control, as well as the opportunity to enhance what is working well to achieve success earlier.
If you want to make the most of your planning session, consider using an outside facilitator to lead your meeting. If you’d like to facilitate your own session (and especially if this is your first time) we’ve developed a course for leaders like you to effectively lead and carry out their organization’s strategy:
Our entire team is passionate about strategic thinking and strategic planning, so if you have any questions along the way, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.