Over the last fifteen years, I have tried with various success to go through the strategy and business planning cycle every year in various organisations. Each time, I’m asking the question how do we develop a strategy that we can deliver on, ensuring our staff understand the big picture and how can we make sure that our business plan captures our key priorities?
As I reflect on this as I gear up to the time of the year in which helping clients in this area is a priority, the lessons learnt for me are significant. These include:
- Strategy, business planning and people’s individual roles need to be linked. People want to understand how their role contributes to the big picture.
- Less is more. Smaller plans, more relevant and specific with a strong focus on what’s important
- Levels of engagement need to be balanced with leaders providing direction on what we are looking to achieve and why
- Adaptability. One of the most important checks of a good planning process is the importance of adaptability in your plans. There plans need to be more like bamboo rather than a steel rod. They need to be flexible and responsive to change.
- Accountability and reporting. This is the most challenging aspect of the planning processes to deliver on. How do you ensure that we are tracking progress and ensuring everyone understands the accountability loops around our planning?
This can be explained by the use of a simple question. How do you eat an elephant? The answer is one bite at a time. I think the reason most people don’t get the results they are looking to achieve from their strategy and business planning is that the horizons of twelve months for a business plan and three to five years for a strategy is too long. Too distant, does not affect my here and now and someone else may be in the role when I get around to reporting against it.
The solution is to break the elephant (the strategy) down into bite size pieces. 90 day pieces to be precise. Quarterly focused themes and actions plans that drive accountability, focus and reporting. Each quarter is aligned to the strategy and business plans with reporting on progress every quarter.
The outcomes are impressive. Accountability is clear for the key actions, your team are engaged around the short term balanced with the long term view and progress is made which drives the next quarter. This bias for action is necessary to be one of the few organisations who can sit back at the end of the year and confidently say that they have achieved or exceeded targets, initiatives and actions developed 12 months ago. All through eating the elephant one bite at a time! How are you eating your elephant?