When music has rhythm, people are able to follow and stay with the beat. If you are familiar with a rhythm, you can predict the direction of it and sometimes add your own twist. Without rhythm, you have random beats with no coherent connection that are difficult to follow. Some of us may remember the “Seinfeld “episode where Elaine demonstrates her dance moves at a wedding. Her moves alongside Shining Star from Earth Wind and Fire were jarring, unpredictable and comically described as “a full body dry heave.”
Significance of Rhythm
Your business can also benefit from establishing rhythms around planning and communication, as they allow greater clarity for employees on the direction of your company. Having rhythm does not mean that there is no room to improvise. Instead, the opposite is true. When people have clarity around direction, they are able to focus their creativity in ways that make a difference.
The fourth quarter is when many companies evaluate how they have done over the past year, where they want to be in the future, and how they are going to get there. There is a great deal of research that links the strong relationship between strategic planning and profit performance, yet some companies fail to prioritize annual strategic growth planning.
You may have heard the expression “those who fail to plan are planning to fail”. Executives who are successful at developing annual roadmaps for growth and improving their profit margins make strategic planning part of their ongoing operational process versus “a project”.
Strategic Growth Planning = Strategizing + Planning
The approach to strategic growth planning differs for each business based on the type and size of a company (e.g. technology vs. product brand), but the goal is to create a common focus and framework for decision making.
The strategic process focuses on your “revenue decision makers”, your customers and your operations. It requires pushing people out of their comfort zone to think beyond what they know to find winning approaches.
1. Testing of Assumptions - What are the commonly held assumptions about customers, about your industry, about competition, the capabilities of your company, of your industry? Ask and Answer “Why or Why not?”
2. Scenario planning – As the past is not a reliable guide to the future, asking tough questions can improve our readiness for the future. What are your top external uncertainties? Do they challenge assumptions, expose new risks, present early warning signs?
a. What could happen?
b. What would be the impact on our strategies, plans, and budgets?
c. How should we respond?
Depending on one’s situation (e.g. expanding geographically, acquiring companies, investing in new technologies…), there may be more than one scenario and a wider range of futures. Scenario planning allows you to stress test your strategic plan and see new opportunities.
3. Conducting systematic research on your target client group to understand your target client’s perspective and priorities, anticipate their needs and learn how they view your firm’s strengths and your current brand. What opportunities and threats does the research unveil?
4. Reviewing information on the strengths and weaknesses of the organization and deciding what to do and what not to do.
Strategy is not perfect. It evolves with changes in the market and with your client’s priorities and involves risk-taking to seize opportunities for growth.
Planning involves taking the information and desired future direction from your strategy process and translating it into goals and objectives. The outcome is a plan that shares:
1. a description of your vision and mission
2. your competitive advantage
3. a list of strategic initiatives that are cross-functional and likely multi-year (e.g. geographic expansion, program or product launches) that focus on future development and growth
4. SMART annual corporate goals that are clear and reachable, with each being:
• Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
• Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
• Achievable (agreed, attainable).
• Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
• Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).
5. SMART Department and Team Goals with clarity around who is responsible for guiding change
6. Budgets that align with the initiatives and goals and identify new and existing resources required
Asking for Help
As companies scale, the need to establish an agile and effective process for regularly evaluating your business and business environment becomes a necessity for keeping a competitive edge. It also establishes priorities for which employees and other stakeholders can focus their energy and resources.
If your company could benefit from someone who has run strategic planning process and can bring an outside perspective or ask the hard questions that lead to new ways of thinking, you may want to consider bringing in a strategic facilitator. Similar to hiring a specialist like an attorney, technology specialist or an auditor, a facilitator experienced in strategic planning brings a specialized expertise that can help you and your team work through strategy and establish a strategic growth planning rhythm that works for you.
What have you found to be helpful in developing a rhythm around strategy and planning? Please share your thoughts with us at info@ArtScienceGroup.com.
ArtScience Group is an executive coaching and facilitation company offering services both locally and globally. For additional information about our services, please visit our website at www.ArtScienceGroup.com or email us at info@ArtScienceGroup.com.