"Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now."
– Alan Lakein
I am an unabashed strategy geek who loves budgeting and planning season.
Carving out the time to refine or recall the bigger vision, identifying key objectives to get there, and working with teams and team members on how they'll contribute to those goals is a wise investment. It's precious time that helps to lift heads up from the day-to-day, challenge what's possible, examine what's needed, and identify the steps needed to accomplish those goals.
Companies and people often want the results that strategic planning provides but are reluctant to commit to the process, because it's not the "sexy" side of business. It can easily get overlooked or not fully completed.
Planning doesn't need to be reinvented or overly complicated. In its purest form, planning takes what seems big, even impossible, and breaks it down to specific, measurable action steps.
In other words, know your vision, create a plan to make it happen and execute through specific action steps:
1. Know where you want to go.
Look, how will you ever get somewhere if you don't set your sights on where you want to go? Companies need a clear vision, and everyone in the company needs to know what it is. For planning, vision is less the long-term aspirational dream and more the direction of the company in the next 12 to 18 months. As a leader, share the vision and share it often. People need to know what they are working towards and how their role contributes to the desired outcome. So many companies do not take the time to connect the dots from the top down and then wonder why the vision doesn't get realized.
2. Plan what to stop and start
What main objectives will help drive your company to achieve that vision? Set three to five objectives that produce the highest probability of winning. Spend some time considering whether what got you where you are will get you where you want to go. Objectives should be a combination of continuing what's working well plus new objectives to get to where you are going next. Also, identify what you need to stop doing. When you know the vision and the key objectives (no more than five) for the company, then teams and individuals can generate their own goals that support the objectives. Use these objectives to stop work that is in progress that is not in support of the vision.
3. Execute: Collectively create the action steps needed to achieve objectives.
The first two steps, when communicated clearly and consistently, allow everyone in the company to do their planning work. Next, it’s time to plan the work and work the plan. Each person in the company generates specific goals to directly contribute to one or more of the company’s objectives and specific action steps to take to achieve the goal. Some are short-term, and some are consistently executed throughout the year. If you work backwards, action steps are what’s being done to meet an individual goal that’s contributing to a key company objective that’s getting closer to the desired outcome — the vision.
4. Commitment: Improve and take action consistently.
Planning is part of continuous improvement for individuals, teams and companies. What’s the personal plan to get better every day? What knowledge needs to be acquired and which skills need to be developed to take the action that achieves the goals? Commitment takes discipline and having a course for action with an annual plan provides a foundation for discipline to flourish.
This is the secret behind all of the personal and professional success stories in our social feeds. Smart planning and taking action every day. Everyone, every team and every company has access to what it takes to be successful. There must be a willingness and a collective effort to take the time to see and define the goal, map out how to get there, and to execute the plan. The exciting thing is that it’s attainable for all!
“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
Are you taking steps now to get what you want in the coming year?
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