Thank God It's Monday™ e-zine by Roxanne Emmerich
Forward to a friend Issue: 103
November 8, 2010
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Dear Roxanne,
It's fall again, and I'm dreading the strategic planning process. Each of the last three years, all of our plans went out the window. How can we approach the process differently this time to make it more useful?

- David C.

Dear David,
"The only constant in life is change"—and that's never been more true than in these last few years. Flexible planning has always been a good idea, but now it's an absolute necessity. I've written this week's column to share my thoughts on how to plan for uncertainty. If that sounds like a contradiction, read on!

- Roxanne

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Planning for Certain Uncertainty

You've probably heard of the Butterfly Effect, where the beating of a butterfly's wings sets off a chain of countless small reactions until you've got a hurricane on your hands. That's the economy for you--an incredibly complex web of tiny causes and huge effects. It's difficult to predict what the world will look like three, six, or twelve months out.

Given all that uncertainty, any minute-to-minute plan you carve in stone is doomed to fail. The move from Step 5 to Step 6 that seemed so logical and inevitable in January may be suicide in July, once the economy has shaken the ground beneath your feet a few times. What you need is a constant reassessment and reorientation to the end results you want, coupled with the skills to adapt and adjust your strategies as the world turns. And churns.

So when you meet this year to plan your company's strategic direction, put away that chisel. Instead, define the targets you intend to keep in your sights and build the shared commitment to reach them.

Be strategic. Speaking of your strategic plan, you might just want to put some... you know... strategies in it. You think I'm kidding? The fact is, if you were severely allergic to strategies, I could fill a swimming pool with the strategic plans of typical organizations and throw you in, and you wouldn't get so much as a SNIFFLE. Why? Because most strategic plans are scoured clean of strategies.

They might have goals—yes, lots of them seem to have goals. There may be some initiatives, too, or tactics. And fonts, and margins. But without strategies, world-class results will be something you read about in headlines about the other guy.

Be specific. Vague wandering in the general direction of results will get you vague and general results. Instead, create a plan that zeroes in on the results you expect with glistening, crackling clarity, and build in follow-through templates, making sure everyone is aligned through weekly check-ins.

Be systematic. Good intentions are swell. A good start on your plan of action is peachy. But you will never connect the dots between Point A and Point Z unless you put a system in place, one that you return to every week for realignment and one that is integrated into every employee’s quarterly plan.

These elements of a successful plan—strategies, precision, and a drum-tight system—are all optional. So is success. But if you choose to follow these guidelines, you'll be well on your way to the kind of success that will have your old-school competitors running for their silver bullets. Let 'em run—you've got things to do, and an uncertain world in which to do them. Best to have a flexible, dynamic plan to meet that challenge.


Key Questions for Smart Strategic Planning

  • Have you identified the marquis target markets and built your plan around making sure you pull in the top cream of the crop?
  • During economic hardship, the best strategy is to target the wealthy. Are you aligned to pull in your top 100 prospects?
  • Where are you right now relative to a given goal?
  • Is your revenue where it needs to be?
  • Do the people on your team have the skills they need to get there?
  • Are they doing what needs doing on a daily, weekly, and quarterly basis?
  • Are there problems filling the sales funnel, or keeping it full?
  • Are clients bringing all of their business on board?
  • Does every plan have a Plan B?

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