Today, we’re going to cover 9 preparation tips to enhance your strategic planning in 2021. With planning for 2021 right around the corner, we jumped at the chance to publish some inside tips from our experienced coaching team!
If you’re a CEO, Senior Manager, or Business Owner and you are planning a strategy session – or 2021 kick off with your Executive Team – it’s imperative to be well prepared. Below, we will discuss the best ways to prepare and lead the strategic planning process- particularly if you’re going it alone.
Here are 9 preparation tips to enhance your strategic planning, gained from years of my experience facilitating sessions with different clients of all shapes and sizes.
9 Preparation Tips to Enhance Strategic Planning in 2021
1. Set Dates
It’s advised to set the dates for both the quarterly and annual planning retreats (some people call them “advances”) well in advance. It’s best if a specific rhythm is established (for example, the second Thursday and Friday before the end of the quarter). The annual planning session is normally two-to-three days, and the quarterly sessions are typically one-to-two days long.
2. Scan ‘Scaling Up’
We openly promote the book ‘Scaling Up’ by Verne Harnish (let’s see who is reading this…contact me, and I will send you a copy!!). We have our executive team scan the book, especially the three chapters in the Strategy section and the Priority chapter in the Execution section – Have the executive team take 5 to 10 minutes to complete the assessment to see which of the Four Decisions — People, Strategy, Execution, or Cash — needs the most attention in your upcoming planning session.
3. Are your Values current, and aligned with the business?
Prior to any annual planning session, ask yourself and the team if you’re comfortable with these key areas: Core Values, Purpose, Profit/X, and BHAG — key elements of the first two columns of the One-Page Strategic Plan (OPSP) we offer as a tool to map these.
4. Strategic Thinking “Council”
Bring the ‘Council’ together for critical preparatory talk time around the strategic decisions driven by the Strengths, Weaknesses, Trends (SWT) and 7 Strata tools. Also discuss the 4Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. In most firms, marketing strategy = strategy. Even if it’s just for a few weeks prior to the planning session, these weekly discussions will get the strategy juices flowing.
5. Top Three Issues
Send out an email to those attending the planning session asking them to respond with their top three issues they feel MUST be addressed/explored/answered at the upcoming planning session, in order for them to feel it was a success. Compile these for review at the beginning of the planning session, or just prior, and ensure they’re addressed at your strategic planning session.
6. Employee Survey
A few weeks prior to the planning offsite, conduct an employee survey. Employees’ insights are helpful in determining quarterly or annual priorities, since they are closer to the customers and are immersed in the daily processes of the business. Many firms use an online survey tool such as SurveyMonkey to make it easier to administer.
We suggest three simple, but powerful questions:
What should WE start doing?
What should WE stop doing?
What should WE keep doing?
7. Customer Input
Along with employee feedback, formally gather customer input to inform your strategic sessions. At a minimum, ask key customers (large, medium, small) the same three “start, stop, and keep” questions listed in the previous point 5.
As discussed in The Data chapter in the book Scaling Up, it’s easier to pick up patterns and trends if there is a weekly rhythm of gathering input from customers and employees; but this simple three-question survey will get you started if you are new to the process.
8. Top Three Issues
Send out an email to those attending the planning session to ask them to send back the top three issues they feel MUST be addressed/explored/answered at the upcoming planning session and also ask, what does ‘success’ look like for them over the next quarter/ 12 weeks. Compile these for review at the beginning of the planning session to set the path for robust discussions.
9. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT):
If you want to dig deeper than what the ‘top three issues’ question uncovers, lead a separate SWOT exercise with the broader management team prior to the planning session. Or, simply send out an email to your team seeking their input on the SWOT, and compile the results for the planning session. Helpful resources in identifying important trends from Export Council of Australia report titled ‘Five trends that will change business in 2020 and beyond’ and Federal Government’s report ‘Trends in the market concentration of Australian industries’
9. Find a Facilitator
Find someone outside the company to facilitate your planning sessions. Ask a colleague from another firm, or bring in a professional facilitator like one of us, as Certified Scaling Up Coaches. This allows everyone on the team – including the CEO – to actively participate, rather than worry about facilitation. Trained facilitators will know how to discern Core Values, define a powerful Purpose, discover a key strategy, and help the team uncover the underlying constraints in establishing priorities and setting key performance indicators (KPIs).
Want to know more and receive a copy of Scaling Up? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Go well, and keep Scaling Up!
Nick and the Next Practice Team