The winning combination of Alignment, Transparency, and Frequency
Strategic plans are an integral part of running a successful business. They are the short-term beacon for the organization, and should be the sanity test for every decision made during the life of the plan. Governance Boards, senior leaders, managers, and staff should all be asking “how does this decision/activity support our strategic plan?” or “What strategy or priority does this decision/activity directly impact?” However, for these questions to be openly asked, there needs to be organizational alignment to the plan, transparency as to who is doing what, and a frequent cadence of reviewing tactics against the plan.
Over the past 12 months, I’ve worked on the strategic plans of many organizations from insurance to social services to healthcare, as well as my own new three-year plan for Satori Consulting Inc. A great deal of time, energy, and resources were placed on the words chosen for each plans’ strategic goals and priorities, ensuring clarity, focus, and intent.
As we jump into 2020, these plans should be well in motion. However, it’s not uncommon to find them tucked in a drawer or sitting prominently on a shelf. The intent of the strategy session being forgotten after the last word was written, as if a strategic plan is just another item on a long list of ‘to do’s”.
In my experience, there are three activities that are guaranteed to keep your organization’s strategic plan alive.
Every person in your organization should be familiar with the strategic plan. They should have read it, questioned it, and fully understand it. From teams to individual contributors, everyone should have a clear line of sight as to where their role fits into the plan, and how their day to day job furthers the plan and what they are responsible to do that is over and above their day job. This deep level of understanding creates alignment. Like the oars of a Dragon Boat team synced in time for maximum efficiency of effort, alignment to the strategic plan across an organization is critical for success, and critical to keeping the plan at the forefront of all activity.
In a typical work environment everyone is given objectives at the beginning of the year, but these individual objectives are not often shared across the organization. Sharing individual objectives/tactics, and their progress toward completion, allows for everyone in the organization to be aware of what others are working on. It levels the playing field, allowing everyone to embrace the roles of others and celebrate in their success. Transparency allows for others to ask for help, or showcase the important work they are doing. Consistent sharing and awareness has the added benefit of breaking down silos and encouraging cross functional support. In addition, it breaks down any mistrust that might creep in suggesting that not everyone is working as hard as some, as all the cards are on the table.
The final element of our winning combination is frequency. Often, tactical planning in support of a strategic plan is done annually, with lofty activities identified to take place over the course of the following 12 months. Then, at the end of the year, staff members alike are judged on their performance as to whether or not they completed their tactics. The problem with this method is that the busyness of the day to day quickly takes over, and the tactical plans/objectives set in January often get pushed aside. This reality leaves employees justifying, 12 months later, why they did or didn’t complete their tactics/objectives, and what it is that they did achieve. Often what did get done is not directly congruent with the strategic plan.
The secret to a successful tactical plan that drives a strategic plan forward is the frequency in which tactics are set, reviewed, and/or modified. At Satori, we set our individual goals quarterly (similar to the OKR methodology). Each tactic, or set of tactics, is directly linked to the strategic plan, thereby forcing each staff member to link the impact of the tactic on the strategy before committing.
While we set our plans quarterly, they are reviewed bi-weekly against measurement criteria to ensure success. There is no hiding or ‘getting busy’ when the cadence to set, and revisit, individual tactics is conducted at a consistent and frequent pace.
Sound time consuming? It doesn’t have to be.
Alignment, transparency and frequency is a winning combination to achieving your strategy. Here are some tips:
- Share everyone’s quarterly tactics in a Google Sheet on a shared drive.
- Limit bi-weekly meetings to 15-30 minute team updates.
- Hold 30 minute individual meetings monthly to hold staff accountable to their commitments.
- Encourage all staff to update their individual progress frequently.
- From a management perspective ensure that all tactics are linked to the strategy and use the monthly meetings to coach staff to meet their commitments.
- Embed your strategy into your language and talk about it often.
Writing your strategic plan requires a great deal of resources. The same amount of resources, if not more, should be placed on working your tactical plans in support of your strategic plan. Tactics within the plan are generally over and above the daily tasks that need to be completed. It is not enough to keep the lights on, everyone in an organization needs to be rowing in sync toward the strategic plan at the finish line. Our winning combination of alignment, transparency, and frequency is guaranteed to get you there.