As a company passionate about the value of planning, we have our own strategic plan. Like most, we would gather for a few days every year to review our mission and vision, discuss our market opportunities, develop objectives, determine action plans, and assign responsibilities. But, I am ashamed to admit, just like many companies we never really executed as well as we should for a number of reasons.
- Our mission hadn’t changed much over the years and our vision remained lofty.
- Our objectives were vague and not well aligned between departments.
- We lacked specific resource commitments, so initiatives didn’t always produce the results we expected.
- And, like most companies, tracking was only done via our income statement.
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However, our industry is in disruption. Client needs, technology, competition and regulations are changing. We recognized that if we were to continue to serve our clients well, we needed to adapt and change with the industry.
In response to these changes we embarked on a new planning approach. Our challenge was to create a new software system that allowed us to not only build a solid plan but gave us the means to drive execution. We needed a way to easily measure and track results to keep the plan updated, which was missing from most processes in use today.
So, has it worked?
What we learned was that any planning process whether strategic, profit planning or even product planning requires similar steps. Plans must become living things that are a part of the culture of the company. They also need to include the processes and tools that support execution.
We had fun and brought everyone into the plan. We were able to get a high level of participation from everyone in the company. We projected our plan on a large monitor to get everyone involved and stimulate discussion. Every team member was able to express their ideas about how each department could contribute to the corporate goal. From this we were able to co-ordinate our objectives and develop action plans.
It brought focus. We learned to trim our objectives and focus on the important ones. We always had too many and most never received attention once the meeting was over. Using this process, we decided what was critical to our future. We each developed initiatives for our areas within the context of the major objectives and allocated resources from our budget to fund those initiatives.
Our new cloud-based tool improves communication by making our plan widely-accessible. Automated emails remind team members to update progress. The dashboard offers a real-time view of what’s working and what’s not. This makes our monthly strategy review sessions more productive. Our conversations are focused on our highest strategic priorities, as owners report on progress and challenges of meeting objectives. Our discussions have reversed from spending most of our time reviewing financial results to now spending more time on our playbook to achieve our desired outcomes.
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Like every business, we have limited bandwidth and resources. Now our resources are spent more wisely, and we are hitting our targets. Our human and financial resource commitments are dedicated towards strategic initiatives that will bring the greatest value to our clients. Sure, we’ve had false starts and failures, but with a more disciplined process we identify our missteps earlier and adapt more quickly. Our resources can be continually channeled into the initiatives with greatest likelihood of success.
Our objective was to continue our growth. Without this new approach and the right tool to support it, we would not be where we are now nor on the road to a better future in this changing environment.
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