How to Create a Strategic Plan (Part 1)

Over the years, I've been asked a lot of questions. Questions about hiring, retention, performance, vision, even parenting. One of the more popular topics has been planning. I'm not sure why this has been the case. Perhaps there is less certainty about this topic; maybe it's because the great management and leadership thinkers haven't written as much about it; or maybe it's because leaders intuitively know that planning is a big deal.

In my last post, I talked about the need for both Strategic and Operating Plans. Here are a few thoughts on a process that will help you create a Strategic Plan. If you want to create a great plan, you'll need three primary ingredients: a group of open-minded, big picture thinkers, adequate time and a proven process.
Open-Minded, Big Picture Thinkers - In many organizations, the men and women creating your Strategic Plan will be functional leaders from across the enterprise. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but you'll have to challenge each member of the team to take off their functional hat and put on their general manager hat. They will need to be more concerned about organizational success than they are about the agenda of their individual function. This is easy to say and very hard to do.
My favorite illustration for this is from Roger Nierenberg. I've written about him before in my post, Lessons from the Maestro. If Roger asked you to sit behind the french horn section in an orchestra and then after the first movement asked you to describe the sound of the orchestra, chances are good you would say the orchestra sounded a lot like a french horn. One of our challenges as leaders is to get out of our functional chair and move to the podium. From the conductor's vantage point, the orchestra sounds nothing like a french horn. The conductor's mindset is essential to great strategic planning.
Adequate Time - After you've assembled the group of people who will do this work, you'll need time. This may seem obvious, but planning can be time consuming. Plans quickly conceived can have disastrous consequences. How much time will be required will depend on the size of the organization, how much work is done outside the meetings and the complexity of the organization and the industry. All I can suggest without knowing your specific circumstances is that you should think in terms of days, not hours, to create the plan to guide you into the future.
After you've assembled the team and begun to allocate the needed time, all that's left is to finalize the steps you'll follow to create the plan. I'll share my thoughts on the planning process in my next post.[GLS_Shield]


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