Strategic Planning: Be first; then do.

When preparing your strategic plan, before diving into the establishment of goals and objectives, make sure to re-commit to ‘who you are’ as an organization.

I’ve seen it so many times.  It’s strategic planning time, and an organization is poised and ready to get started on drafting its plan for the upcoming year or years forward.  What happens next is a leap-frog of some important first steps as the organization quickly dives in to the task of drafting its goals and objectives. Naturally, that’s not strategic planning; that’s more like a simple goals and objectives session.  So, what’s missing?

Before any organization can prepare meaningful goals and objectives it needs to recommit to ‘who they are’.  It must ask itself: ‘Who do we want to be’?  What do we stand for? What’s important to us?  Yes, this is another way of saying, the organization needs to commit to its core values, its vision and its mission.  Spending time reviewing the existing values statement is one heck of a good way to start the strategic planning process.  The time spent on this review most likely won’t result in any word changes to the value statement, but it will trigger a ‘hand on the heart’ moment that gets the organization re-focused on who it is. Pledging allegiance to your organization’s core values and its vision and mission statements will allow you to ‘drop an anchor’ as the planning process continues.  In short, an organization must re-affirm who it is before it can begin setting goals.  Be first.

If done properly, this review of the core values, vision and mission will push the organization toward the high road in its eventual setting of goals and objectives.  Believe me when I say, pledging allegiance to your core values will give you the courage to withstand some of the temptations that may arise during the goal setting session. These temptations may include conversation about taking shortcuts, or adopting a business plan that puts profit before doing the right thing, or short-changing the customer experience, or God forbid, talk about doing something unethical.  The effort to re-affirm who you are as an organization, and what you stand for will serve as the North Star that will guide the rest of the planning process.

Once the organization has re-affirmed who it is, who it wants to be, then it can effectively move on to setting goals and objectives. Right, that’s when stuff gets done. That’s where the ‘doing’ shows up. Goals are laid out and achieving these goals requires a ton of moving parts, resource allocation decisions and so on.  By this point, I say to the organization: ‘Go ahead, knock yourself out. Get things done.”  Now that you ‘are’, it’s okay to ‘do’.

One quick footnote here.  An effective strategic planning process does contain more steps than what I’ve outlined here.  Other important steps include reviewing engaging in a robust SWOT exercise, performing a competitive analysis, and establishing an on-going assessment process for subsequent review of the plan’s results as the year goes on. The purpose of this article was to keep it ‘high level’ and convey the over-arching theme that’s most important.  So, let’s all say it together. When preparing your strategic plan, remember the importance of this mantra: ‘Be first; then do’.

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