Strategic Planning for Busy People

By Diane Dempster, Executive Coach 

strategic planning“Help! I’m too busy to do my 2017 planning!” Okay. We all know the importance of strategic planning and it’s December, right? So it’s the “perfect” time to review, regroup, and revise our strategy as an organization. In fact, most large companies have annual strategic planning processes that align with the organization’s missions and vision, and typically culminate in a formal, year-end forecasting and planning document that spans the next 3-5 years. (That’s a mouthful!) But if you’re in a smaller organization without the dedicated staff who went to “planning school” and do this “planning thing” all year long . . . who has the time (particularly at this time of year) to do strategic planning? Besides, we’re all busy trying to meet our year-end numbers and make sure we have enough time on our calendar to take a day off and celebrate the holidays with our families and . .. WHEW!

If this sounds like you, you’re in good company. Take a deep breath, let go of the guilt and let’s talk about a more realistic way to tackle something that’s really important, but not always seen as critical.

Get clear on why planning is important for you and your organization.

How often do we take the time to really evaluate how planning helps an organization or its leaders? Often we do it because we are “supposed” to be doing planning, and not because we are clear on our objective, or even the value. If you are involving your team in the process, are they clear on how it will help them and their staff?

Don't do strategic planning just because you're 'supposed' to; understand its value and be clear on your objectives.Click To TweetBeing more mindful and conscious about where we have been and are going as an organization can be as critical to the bottom line as are sales and operations, and if you or any of your team members don’t understand that value―it really doesn’t matter. Side note: If you aren’t sure how it helps, chances are you aren’t doing a very good job at it either, so consider engaging some outside support  to help you have the conversation.

Plan based on need and not what you’re supposed to do.

I’m a strategic planner―not only by training, but also personality. AND I’ve come to realize that I work with people who have brains that just don’t think the way that mine does! Taking them through an onerous process will not only exhaust them, but make us all crazy. If I’m clear on what planning  activities are most critical in advancing us into the next year―whether it’s a market analysis, goal review, or simple projecting, we’ll use our teams’ time wisely and help the organization’s opportunity for success.

Find a way to plan as you go rather than waiting for the end of the year.

(Okay, it’s December, so it might be too late for this one in 2016.)  Find ways, while you go through your fiscal year, to jump out of “doing mode” and back to “planning mode.” A few ideas here would be scheduling two hours each month to do a quick review (and honoring that time on your calendar each month), or simply keeping your goals on the wall in your office and actually looking at them and reflecting on a regular basis.

Make Strategic Planning fun!

My favorite part of working on strategy is celebrating the accomplishments of the past and looking for all those exciting opportunities for the next year . . . and that’s FUN! Make sure you take the time to do these more energy building steps. Take some time away from the office to do it―have a retreat at a fun location, or treat your team to a nice lunch as part of the process.  AND if you aren’t like me and love planning―don’t try and do it yourself. I had a client once that had this amazing “Aha!” when they used StrengthsFinder to look at the skills of their team and realized that they had only one strategic thinker in the group. Side note: she wasn’t even on the strategic planning committee!!!

SO, yes! Strategic Planning is a critical component of organizational success, and yes, this is a “good” time of the year to do some planning and reflecting. However, don’t stress yourself and your team out by doing something overboard or formal if it isn’t your style. The Fearless Leader finds ways to accomplish goals that fit with the skills and culture of the organization AND is willing to get some help when they find that a critical piece is missing in the process.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for an amazing and successful 2017!