While I’m the first to admit that we don’t have crystal balls with which we can see into the future, when it comes to your strategic planning process for the coming year, we can give you the next best thing: techniques that give you the best possible chance at success in 2021.
Because let’s face it – 2021 still carries a tremendous amount of uncertainty. There’s less luck to be had. Things are just harder.
I want to help you stack the deck in your favor, and today am focusing on a fundamental flaw many leaders fall prey to as they embark on forming their plans for the new year.
Business leaders, in creating strategies, are setting the end destination for the next year, and that will be measured by profits, performance, retention – all the measurable metrics we love. Through the strategic planning process, the goals become clear.
But the real question many overlook is this: do you know your starting point? Most businesses fall into the trap of not actually knowing where they are.
There are two primary reasons for this:
- Reliance upon backward-looking key performance indicators for forecasting and planning into the aforementioned uncertainty;
- The fact that as the business grows, leaders lose sight of details.
I wrote about the first last week (The Data Trap That Can Destroy Your Strategic Plan). In this article, I tackle the second.
As a founder myself, I’ve experienced this. In the early days, when you could count the number of your employees, on one hand, you knew the details of the business intimately.
But as a business grows, you hire more staff, and as you do so, you allow the people in those roles to do their jobs. As your role in those areas diminishes, so does your visibility into those areas of responsibility. At the same time, your employees, who are devoting their full attention and expertise to their jobs are uncovering issues and opportunities that can improve and expand the business.
You have to tap into that wisdom and ensure they are on the same page as leadership, with the same clear view of the planned destination.
To put it more bluntly: if you’re going to spend the time developing a robust strategy for 2021, you should make a point to understand the following:
- Whether the team is standing shoulder to shoulder with you and ready to drive things ahead, aligned with and energised by the strategy;
- Where the issues are that may pose an impediment to your plans, and what your team’s concerns are;
- Where there is an opportunity to be had to improve a process, fill a customer need, or answer rising demand from a new quarter.
A good way to access that knowledge is to use a time-honored planning tool: the SWOT analysis, which assesses the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of the subject being analysed.
Viewing your organisation through the SWOT lens – and including your employees, as you do so – will create the same holistic, big-picture view of the organisation that a similar analysis produces when focused on the external marketplace.
Please don’t assume the exec team can figure this out on their own. You need to unlock the collective wisdom of the team if you hope to tease out the details, such as the concerns and opportunities I mentioned above.
The COVID-19 point of view
Additionally, to hone your future plans, be sure to assess your organisation in the context of COVID as you consider the various Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
- What new strengths have emerged this year?
- How have opportunities changed?
- What concerns do they have moving forward – about customer needs, the work environment, etc.?
Invite the team to share what they have learned and experienced with you. (Current Engagement Multiplier clients can use the “Emerge Stronger” on-demand survey to gather feedback and ideas from their teams, specifically as related to their experience during the pandemic.)
You’ll come away with an expanded view of your organisation, more knowledge about the talent within it, and actionable insights that can inform the strategy and even provide an opportunity for immediate improvement to the business, such as:
- Are your leaders effective?
- Are your teams aligned behind their leaders?
- Are your reliable sources of strength in good shape?
- What opportunities do your employees see for the business?
- What new threats are on the radar?
At this point, you will have plotted your accurate starting position. Your team will be the deciding factor in the success of the business in the upcoming year. You need your team to have clarity and help you execute and achieve. If they’re thinking about finding a new job or have different priorities, your strategy will feel the impact.
Bolster your 2021 planning by assessing your team as closely as you do external market opportunities. Your strategy – and your business – will be better off for it.
To learn more about forward planning and how to create a strategic plan that does not rely on luck, tune into our webinar below: