9 Principles for Effective Strategic Planning

an effective strategic planning session

Fall is the budgeting and strategic planning season. For some, this is a time of excitement and anticipation. For many others, it’s an annual dread. The idea of planning brings up the angst associated with long meetings, talking in circles, and the prognostication that “we’re not going to follow through with this anyway.” Sadly, those thoughts have merit based on precedent. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve seen first hand what the right strategic planning process can do for a company. The Paterson Center has 9 principles for strategic planning that, if implemented effectively, can radically transform your business.

Nine Principles for Effective Strategic Planning

1. Manage the Whole

Effective strategic planning starts with giving everyone permission to put on their “owner of the store” hat. Invite your team to think as if they are the owners of the company. Encourage them to look at the business in its entirety. This untapped thinking will provide unique and most likely, new perspective. 

2. Breakthrough Is Horizontal

There are vertical silos in every organization. The key to successful planning is creating an environment where those silos are broken down, and the entire team comes together and thinks together as one unit.

Give permission to each team member to talk and think cross-functionally. Give sales freedom to speak into engineering; give customer service freedom to speak into supply chain, etc. This paradigm will bring breakthrough.

3. The Truth Sets Us Free

Nothing substantial will be conducted if the team holds back. The team must be able to speak truthfully about issues without getting personal. Cultivate a safe environment where people are free to be truthful without being fearful. Facilitate a conversation where truth is put on the table. Truth will lead to breakthrough.

4. Perspective Before Planning

Each time a smartphone is used to give its user directions, the first thing it asks is, “Where are you now?”  This is perhaps the most important part of strategic planning: Getting perspective on the current state.

One of the fatal flaws of most strategic planning systems is premature planning without full clarity of perspective. However, if you have the right perspective, the core plan almost writes itself.

5. Make the Vision Clear

We know that where there is no vision, eventually, there is chaos. Conversely, where there is a clear vision, there is order. So, before getting into any tactics, seek to define the answer to this question: Where are we headed? Armed with the answer, the team will have the wisdom to develop the plan.

6. Focus on the W.I.N.s

W.I.N is an acronym for “What’s Important Now?”  It comes from legendary college football coach Lou Holtz, who used to remind his players at Notre Dame to ask themselves this important question repeatedly throughout the day. When used in strategic planning, this question helps the team to zero in on the four to six key initiatives that are most important for moving the organization forward.

7. Form Follows Function

Another fatal flaw of other strategic planning systems is premature restructuring. Maintain the discipline to only talk about structure after you are clear on the vision, plan, and the actions that must take place. Only then can you determine what systems, processes, and structure are needed to execute the plan.

8. If You Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan, Your Plan Will Work.

Assuming you have the right plan, maintaining it with discipline, cadence, and rhythm will result in success. Don’t be guilty of putting the plan on the proverbial shelf. Manage the plan regularly to ensure that what was planned is ultimately accomplished.

9. Constant Adaptation

When it comes to strategic planning, there is no such thing as “set it and forget it.” Almost daily, new information, competitors, innovations, etc., compel even the best plans to be reviewed, revised and renewed. Be intentional about planning on an annual basis, and leave space to change the plan as both internal and external environments dictate. 

Make Your Strategic Planning Effective

Ready to get out of the rut of ineffective strategic planning? As a StratOp facilitator, I help businesses make meaningful, actionable strategic plans. Reach out today for a free chat about what strategic planning can look like for your business.