Carmen’s out on the road with clients this week, but Randy took the helm and is sharing the Three Must Haves for GREAT Strategic Planning. There are some great nuggets in here — don’t miss out!
Welcome to the Evolutionary podcast. I’m Randy Harrington. Carmen Voilleque is on the road out working for clients and doing brilliant things I’m sure. And so for today, it’s just going to be me. And today I’m going to be talking about some of the key issues that face people who are trying to engage in a strategic planning process.
So, the first mistake that most people make is to say that oh, well that must only mean senior teams, boards of directors and CEOs. Aaant. Not true. The strategic planning conversation needs to be an ongoing conversation that involves everyone. So with that in mind, I want to talk through three ideas that I see missing in a lot of people’s strategic planning processes.
All right. So this is going to go quick and we’re just going to jump right into it. The first of the three things that you must have as you engage your strategic planning process is a strategic narrative. Now, what in the world do I mean by that? A strategic narrative is simply a story about what your business is all about and about where you want it to go.
And it needs to be a story. It doesn’t need to be business-ese. It doesn’t need to be kind of gobblety gook about strategic positioning and competition. And it certainly isn’t the kind of thing that’s going to come out of the godforsaken SWAT analysis that generally passes for strategic planning in many American organizations.
No, no, no. A strategic narrative is literally a story. And it should be something along the lines of here’s where we are, here’s where we’ve been, here’s where we’re going. And it should be concise. It should be something that is relatable in one to two minutes. And it should be a story of optimism and change and development.
It should imply the values that your organization is all about. And if you don’t have a [00:02:00] strategic narrative that comes to mind as I’m talking to you right now, then that’s one of the first places that you need to focus.
So how do you develop a strategic narrative? The best way to do it is to sit down and actually talk through where you’re going, where you’ve been and what your challenges are right now. I like to talk about narrative in the form of what is the scene that we’re in? For example, right now for financial institutions we’re playing out our narrative in a scene of significant change.
What are the actions that we’re going to delivery? Well, we’re going to focus on consumer lending or consumer behavior. Who are the people? What are the actors who are involved? And how are they going to do it? Scene, act, agent, agency and purpose. These are the basic elements of narrative. Pull those together and you’re on your way. Once you have a strategic narrative, you’ve got the setting to begin a truly dynamic strategic planning process.
Okay, now we’re drunk with power. We’re going to move on to the next big concept. We have our narrative in place. The next thing you need is strategic guidance. Guidance is going to come from your CEO, your Board, and your senior team. Guidance needs to look like options. That is to say, given a choice between efficiency and service quality, we’re always going to fall on the side of service quality.
Or we’re always going to fall on the side of efficiency. Or we’re always going to fall on the side of product quality. Whatever it is, but the guidance should be something that shows you a tension between two ideas and then there should be a resolution of that tension by saying in this case, efficiency should always trump friendliness. Or friendliness should always trump efficiency. Whatever it is that you think is important for your business to move forward.
Guidance statements are the parameters that allow people to know how to make [00:04:00] on-the-spot, on-the-fly decisions. Guidance statements tend to be short, a sentence or two. You can have multiple guidance statements, five, six, seven, ten guidance statements that drive what the strategic plan should look like. And the guidance statements need to be word smithed carefully.
In other words, every single word in those statements needs to have very specific, agreed upon meaning by everybody who is a stakeholder in the strategic plan. And the last thing I want to talk about in this podcast is the concept of strategic yield.
And that is, what the heck do we expect to get after we go through this whole process? We’ve got our narrative. We’ve got our guidance. What do we expect to occur? What is going to be different as a result of the development of the strategic plan?
This is the beginning of the formation of strategic hypotheses which we’re going to talk about in another podcast. But suffice to say at this point, what we need is some discussion about how the new strategic plan is going to reposition the company.
One of the simple things I like to tell my clients is we know we’ll have done a good job with our strategic plan, if it’s a two year strategic plan where if at the end of that we look forward and now we have more options than we have right now. I believe that great strategic plans open up options instead of closing them off.
These are just three terms more than anything else that I want you to, to bring into the conversation. Do you have a strategic narrative? Do you understand the characters, the scene, where you’re trying to go? Is it a story you can tell?
Next, do we have strategic guidance in place that tells us what trumps what and the value proposition of your business? And then finally, if we do all of the work for producing the strategic plan, what do we expect it to yield for us? Is it top of mind awareness in the marketplace? Is it acquisition of new customers? Is it a new and innovative [00:06:00] environment for new products to roll of the line quicker? Is it better efficiency? Whatever it is, what do we expect to yield?
In our next podcast, we’re going to talk about three more things – strategic actions, results and performance indicators and how we need to know when to stop or what a fail looks like when it comes to strategic planning. So I hope this has helped and uh, I hope that you reach out to us at Evolutionaries to find out more about strategic planning and to continue to develop the communication journey of your organization. Thanks very much and I’ll look for you next time on the Evolutionaries podcast.