December is the month during which many of us take time away from work and gather with our families to celebrate a variety of holidays. It is also the month where many institutions look toward the new year and what goals and plans it wants to realize in the months to come. January is approaching and with it comes new strategic plans and updated visions for the future.
Here’s a valuable question to ask before you start your planning process: How do you keep the momentum of your strategic plan throughout the course of the year? The common criticism about strategic plans is that they become the book that “collects dust on the shelf” while the organization goes on about its day to day business. How do you prevent that?
We have three “M’s” to help you. As you prepare to begin planning in the months to come, put in place the following to prevent an obsolete strategic plan:
- Minimize: Strategic plans by definition look 5, 10, 20 years into the future to determine what the organization will create and become. For a plan to stay active, however, it is essential to take those long range goals and scale them back to what you will accomplish this year, to clearly define a set of year end targets. Even better, take the year-end targets and create quarterly outcomes or tasks with very specific steps to complete them. The more clearly you define what you will accomplish in the short term to move you toward your long-range goals, the more likely your plan will stay focused, active and on track.
- Measure: In “Minimize” you are selecting and designing quarterly and yearly steps that will move you closer to your long-range vision and goals. How do you know your plan is working? Metrics. For each year-long project that you create in your strategic plan, set up a metric to measure its impact. If a project is designed to bring customers back as repeat business, measure to see if your repeat business is in fact improving. If a project is designed to get the organization into new markets, measure to see how your customer base is changing. If a project isn’t “measuring up” revise it.
- Meet: No matter how terrific a strategic plan is, if it is never talked about after the initial planning sessions, it will be obsolete within a few months’ time. When you gather to create your strategic plan, include a parting step of setting up your first review meeting. You need a regular review meeting – at least monthly – that involves a look at each strategic project you outlined. Talk about the work that has been done, what hasn’t been completed and why. Make revisions that are needed to keep the plan active and alive.
That is it. Three steps to keeping your strategic plan active throughout the year to come. Minimize your long range goals down to quarterly chunks of work that can be measured as to their impact. Then meet regularly to talk about progress.