As a parent, we avoid using “four letter words” around our children or grandchildren, you know, those words that aren’t nice words.
Throughout my career, I’ve been surprised that for many organizations and individuals, the word “PLAN” seems to be one of those words people avoid. They just don’t want to spend the time doing it. Why is that? My observation is there are many who don’t want to commit the time, and others don’t want a plan because with a plan there is an expectation that you stick to the plan, which limits their freedom to do whatever they want to do. No plan, no restrictions.
I believe a plan is important, without it, you personally or an organization becomes a ship without a rudder, all you can do is drift. Drifting is okay when you’re on vacation or in calm waters, but if you want to get somewhere, your ship needs a rudder, because it is the rudder that helps steer the ship in the direction of where you intend to go.
Drifting is not a strategy if you want to be successful. Your organization needs a plan.
The planning process alone helps do several things that are important.
- It forces conversations that might not otherwise happen – In all organizations, people avoid difficult conversations for fear of offending someone. Leaders become defensive of their staff and initiatives. The planning process is a time where it’s okay to talk about those things, to ask questions, because the process requires it.
- It’s an opportunity to re-think and re-imagine – Organizations get so invested in doing what they’ve been doing, that they never take the time to stop and consider if there are other ways to do what they’ve been doing, new products that might be more valuable to their customers, new services, etc. The planning process is the time when you are asked to do that.
- It sharpens your focus and vision for the future – The planning process takes you away from the “day to day” work and requires you to spend time visioning the future.
If you don’t go through an annual planning process, you’ll just protect what you’ve been doing. That might not be all bad, yet you might miss out on critical new opportunities.
I’m convinced there are three critical elements of any good strategic plan.
- Your mission field – Who you serve, your customer, needs to be crystal clear. I once worked in an organization where consultants told us our customer was the corporate (home) office. There were serious problems because the organization lost touch with their true customers. Everything you do should be focused on your customer’s needs.
- A required relationship between long-term goals and the annual goals/initiatives – A relationship means it is a “step toward” achieving those long-term goals. You can put a great list of goals or initiatives into your plan, but if they don’t help you achieve your long-term goals, you are wasting time and resources.
- Accountability – Too often the plan is written and sits on a shelf and is never used. The plan needs to be owned by the organization’s senior leadership and they need to hold others accountable for the execution of the plan. If an initiative is running behind, it’s the responsibility of leadership to help get it back on track. If you don’t, achieving your long-term goals will get further away.
Don’t drift, make sure your organization has a good rudder (strategic plan) for your ship.
Plan carefully and you will have plenty; if you act too quickly, you will never have enough. Proverbs 21:5 (GNT)