Strategic Planning: Thinking 5 Moves Ahead
It seems like we’re always shouting from the rooftops the importance of planning … But we can’t stress enough how critical it is when scaling a business and leading people. So we’ll keep beating this drum until it’s ingrained in your business.
In Planning for Effective Leadership we talked about some of the ways planning helps leaders become more effective … By providing more focus and clarity, improving decision making, decreasing the number of fire drills, easing growing pains …
Visionaries must be able to think 5 moves ahead. Yet so many entrepreneurs are still caught with deer in the headlights at times.
In fact, Research from Harvard Business Review suggests that 85% of executive leadership teams spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy, with 50% spending no time at all.
Those are disturbing numbers!
And although we know how critical communication is when it comes to executing on our plans, perhaps even worse is their findings that on average, 95% of a company’s employees are unaware of, or do not understand the plan. That means more than 9/10 employees are bouncing around recklessly from task to task with no guiding direction.
Hopefully these numbers don’t apply to your organization … But for the overwhelming majority that fit these statistics, imagine how much time and energy is being wasted. Not to mention the amount of money and opportunity that’s being left on the table!
The essence of planning is to make decisions today that make your life easier tomorrow.
Let’s talk about some situational examples and how they might play out for a planner vs. someone who’s just going with the flow …
Let’s say it’s 3 pm on a Friday and you receive a last-minute invitation to jump on a podcast as an authority on a timely hot topic.
If your day wasn’t well-planned and tasks were not prioritized, your day was full of interruptions and you spent your time being pulled in 100 directions. Now that it’s nearing the end of the day, your focus is shot and you’re still scrambling to finally accomplish that one thing you absolutely HAVE to get done.
So even though the podcast is a GREAT opportunity, you don’t have the time or energy, so you’re forced to decline … Bummer.
Now, imagine that you had carefully planned and prioritized your day in advance, setting aside do-not-disturb time early in the day to handle those crucial, needle-moving tasks. And by now you’ve learned to expect the unexpected, so you had some time buffers built into your schedule.
By 3 PM you’ve already handled your BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) and more. You’ve given yourself the freedom to choose how you’ll spend the rest of your day.
Sure, you might have a few menial to-dos still on your calendar, but those can definitely wait until Monday. Your vision and mission are always the driving force behind your day-to-day decisions, and you immediately recognize that this opportunity could be a great stepping stone to meeting your long-term goals … You’re in!
This is a perfect example of how prioritizing and planning creates freedom and agility.
That’s what planning is all about — being agile, vigilant, and forward thinking.
It’s about anticipating potential obstacles before they become in-your-face problems.
Let’s take for example that for whatever reason, an integral member of your team is having some performance issues. Although they’re still getting their tasks done, they’ve essentially checked out and have one foot out the door.
Because you don’t plan regular check-ins with your team, the situation goes under the radar. For all you know, it’s business as usual … They’re here for the long haul!
Now seemingly out of nowhere, they quit. You not only lost a valuable team member, but you’re left to pick up the mess they’ve left after months of doing the bare minimum.
Now let’s say you have the same problem with a team member, but you’re a planner …
Your department leaders have regularly-scheduled touchpoints with all of your team members. You have weekly pulse meetings with each of your department heads. You’ve picked up on a pattern of signs that this person is straying from culture and character. Gentle reminders don’t seem to be doing the trick.
So you schedule a one on one to find out what’s going on. Maybe it’s a legitimate problem with a simple solution and you think it’s worth salvaging the relationship. YAY! You avoided costly turnover, built trust, and regained one of your key team members.
Or, maybe you make the decision to part ways …
And while it might be disappointing, that’s okay too — Your planning practices allowed you to be more vigilant, so you saw this coming. You made sure processes and procedures were being documented, and maybe even looped in HR to start thinking how you could fill in the gaps.
Planning saves the day again!
If you take ONE thing away from this … Let it be this: Don’t be the 85%.
Invest some time and energy into implementing better planning practices in your day-to-day and your business. When you do, we’re confident that those resources will come back to you tenfold!