As I sat naked with the bank president in the steam room at our downtown YMCA, the conversation turned to strategic planning. His bank had recently hired a third-party facilitator to help lead their meetings and it was going well. They thought they knew their bank. But after the last meeting they were not so sure.
The president and his team had always viewed their business as an “average guy’s” bank. But after scanning through their data, they discovered a discrepancy between who they thought of as their customers and who they actually were. The data showed that their actual client was more affluent than they’d thought, but they had very little penetration of each individual’s entire banking needs.
That conversation got me to thinking about all the time our company has spent on “strategic planning.” Planning is key to the success of a business or anything else. But too often, the best-laid plans end up in a file on the network that is never reviewed or referenced. Results are rarely measured against benchmarks — unless goals are hit, in which case, the plan is brandished around like a new iPhone 6 at a coffee shop. If goals are missed, good luck finding the plan. It’s on the Z: drive under, don’t remind us how bad we are doing.
To help you in your strategic planning for 2015, I’d like to offer 5.4 things to think about when you begin the process. After all, ’tis the season:
1. Be concise. Go here and steal their one-page strategic plan:
It’s free, they encourage you to use it in the hope that you will use their other materials. We have used this tool over the years and found it to be a good road map and presentation tool.
Use it as a road map. Conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis; set the goals, get the plans. Many times the strategic planning process is so overblown that very few measurable items are gleaned from the meetings. Keep it simple and make sure it fits on one page.
2. Pick an uninformed champion. The lower you go on the agency org chart, the better. The CEO should have a copy of the plan and drive the company using the plan, but pick someone at a lower level to compare the goal with the actual results. Let them lead the conversation each month about results versus goals. You might be surprised the impact of this recommendation.
The CEO will have his or her or their version of why things are not as they should be, but the champion might just ask questions about things that management may overlook for why they missed a goal. Taking a step back might be the sole reason for the miss. Bring in a rookie and tell them what you are trying to do. Then give them the goal, the actual results and allow them to ask “why.”
3. Define five measurables. Sales, expenses, percentage of penetration of a particular market; these are all good goals and measurable. But pick one or two that are a little unusual, such as phone call-to-email percentage, or cell expense-per-salesperson vs. their actual revenue. These are fun ideas to track that could lead to some very interesting conversations.
4. Use a dashboard. Monthly data reporting in dashboard form that can be viewed by the entire organization is key. When you leave the planning meeting, everyone is on board, but what about three months later? Keep people accountable with agreed-upon measurables that are reported and updated monthly. Include a copy of the one-page plan on your dashboard.
5. Hire an outside third party to oversee the process. This is a key point. Don’t let management dictate the meeting or the output. Meetings should include both key people and lower-level employees who have never been involved in the process. An impartial third party can help organize and keep everyone on track, but the ideas that will flow from the bottom up will surprise everyone. The third party can help manage the tired old existing goals with some of the newer energy ideas offered by the “folks that had yet to fail” as much as so of the older team members.
5.1. Reduce your mission statement. Quick, recite your agency’s mission statement. If you can’t, don’t expect anyone else to. Your mission statement is the phrase that pays. If it’s too verbose, rework it to something that you, your employees, and your clients will know and understand — the simpler, the better.
We did this years ago and ended up with a nine-word statement:
Find the Pain
Heal the Pain
Show the Love
That is our mission statement: We know it, our staff knows it, our vendors know it, and our clients know it.
Try these 5.1 tips and you might actually get some benefit from something that in too many cases is an annual traditional waste of time.