Having a 10-Year Plan Is a Bad Idea. Here's Why — and What You Should Do Instead.
Strategic planning can help create mechanisms and mindsets to be able to respond to the battles ahead, but it is not a one-time thing or a "set it and forget it" activity.
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"Everybody has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth," Mike Tyson famously said in 1987. History teaches us that we will face conflict when we don't plan and often when we do. Over 60 years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "Plans are worthless, but planning is everything." We learn valuable information during the exercise of planning and not just the understanding that even the best plans can and will change.
When planning for your business battles, do you ever really know what is ahead, and most importantly, what to do? Strategic planning can help create mechanisms and mindsets to allow you to respond to the battles ahead, but it is not a one-time thing or a "set it and forget it" activity.
It is a plan that shows the way forward for your business, spelling out your company's goals and why they are important. It can also guide you by outlining things to consider when responding to opportunities and challenges.
Related: Why Having a Strategic Plan for Your Business Is Essential
Why are long-range strategic plans not realistic?
I believe in one- and three-year strategic plans and re-establishing them each year. Just keep in mind that a strategic plan is a roadmap for a company to achieve its goals. It's also a tool to unite your teams, motivating them with clarity, direction and focus.
Not that you wouldn't want to have a list of items you want to achieve long-term (I do have one), but because we live in a world that is changing faster and faster, we must adapt our plans in an agile way and harness the power of technology and systems to help us.
Companies need to be fluid and mobile. In a changing world, the future is no longer easy to predict based solely on the past. What we need is a strategy that breaks away from the old three-ring binder plan already starting to gather dust on the shelf and instead devises one that is adaptive and directive.
This is why the one-to-three-year timeframe helps and why a 10-year timeframe is obsolete before it even begins.
Related: 5 Actionable Strategic-Planning Tips To Boost Business Efficiency
What should strategic goals align with?
If strategic goals are your long-term objectives, operational goals — or, as we call them, lead measures — are the daily milestones that have to be reached to achieve them.
While aligning your business goals with your strategic goals can be hard to do every year, we must make an effort. Don't forget that the actions you take each day should mostly roll up to achieving your goals.
For our franchise brands and us, our three main goals each year are franchisee success, revenue and profit. Each brand determines success, but revenue and profit numbers change each year. What's important is to have your main strategic goals supported by lead measures — actionable items you will do each day and week that will lead to accomplishing the goal.
So, for example, if you are a salesperson and have a goal of $XXX sales this year (revenue), what do you need to do to make those sales?
Look at your sales funnel to determine the steps and the quantity of each step you need to make your goal: how many leads or prospects; how many points of contact, calls, presentations, discovery days and follow-up calls; or how many applications?
Related: How to Fall in Love With Strategic Planning
How do I prioritize goals and to-do lists?
One recipe for disaster is never doing the most important things and always doing the urgent things. While balancing them, you should stay focused on the most important goals.
It's not about "to-do" lists or checklists — it's about your goals. The only thing worse than not having goals is having too many goals. I believe that three primary goals per year and two to three lead measures for each are good.
While there are set goals and trackable lead measures, don't forget that there's never only one way to get something done; there are multiple ways.
So, encourage your team members to do what they feel is right. Find out what they want to do rather than just telling them what you would do to achieve it. Weaving that strategy into your planning together will help you get better results.
In The Power of Positive Leadership, author Jon Gordon famously advised us not to focus on the numbers. We must trust the process, and when we keep doing things the right way, the numbers will eventually rise, those wins will come, and the desired outcomes will occur.