5 Tips for Continuous Strategic Planning
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At the outset of any business, most entrepreneurs build a smart, thorough and data-driven business plan and roadmap. Months or even years later, however, aspects can become obsolete and staying married to old plans can be detrimental to future growth prospects.
Over three years into building my company Travefy, here are five tips to smartly and efficiently update your strategic plan and build team buy-in.
1. Set health metrics early on and check them often.
The best way to know whether your company is healthy and your strategic plan is pushing you in the right direction is to quantify your key performance indicators, or KPIs, and to review them regularly against benchmarks. Introspection is sometimes difficult, but numbers don’t lie.
The key to keeping the KPIs themselves unbiased is to set the metrics early, before any temptations to elevate or demote certain ones. And while this doesn’t mean these KPIs can’t change over time, they should only be reset in the larger context of changes to your strategic focus.
Armed with this important performance data, you and your team are able to effectively evaluate your strategies.
2. Get out of the office (regularly)!
Your office has it’s own team norms and distractions making it one of the worst places to effectively hold a strategic planning retreat. As a best practice, it’s great to hold regular team planning offsites.
And this doesn’t necessarily mean a team retreat to Vegas. This could literally be a day in a local hotel conference room or an investor's office. The key is a new environment. Clear heads and no distractions are optimal for true talk, evaluation and effectively building out plans.
3. Revisit your vision.
Now that you're at your strategic planning offsite, let the fun begin.
The best place to start evaluating your existing strategic plan is to revisit your vision. For some organizations this vision begins as a stand-alone product vision or mission statement. This vision is your North Star and everything your organization does should be building towards achieving that vision.
At this retreat, it’s crucial to evaluate if this vision is the vision. Things absolutely change -- including the realities of product-market fit -- so it’s important to question and refine your vision if need be.
4. Remember that nothing is sacred.
Armed with your reaffirmed (or new) vision, as well as your KPI data, you can now effectively review your current strategic plan to see what is working and what is not.
When doing so, leave ego at the door as well as any pride of ownership. Other than the tentpole of your vision, you should be willing to throw anything away including strategies, products or marketing campaigns. The goal is to build the best plan going forward and everything you’ve done up until that point is a sunk cost.
5. Set targets.
The hard part is over and now your team can set three, six and 12 month tactical actions to achieve your vision. This constitutes your exciting new strategic plan.
And don’t worry this living document will be revisited in three months during your next team offsite!