Posted at Mar 31, 2020 3:43:00 PM by THAT Agency | Share
The most difficult position a business can find itself in is just keeping up day-to-day. There are so many daily operations, tasks, and emails that it becomes impossible to look ahead. You're doing all you can to chip away at a backlog of work. This torpedoes your long-term plan, and it's why businesses need to focus on the advantages of strategic planning. Many businesses follow a plan but only discuss or update it once a year. This is how they begin to tread water instead of swimming ahead. What are the benefits of strategic planning that solve this problem?
Proactive vs. Reactive
An organization that fails to look ahead starts to react more and more. As you react, you start to let things pile up. You're not enacting plans in the world, you're simply keeping up with it. It's remarkably easy for an organization to become this way because it doesn't have to do with effort. In fact, reactive organizations often work harder than proactive ones.
When you look at your organization and you still see your staff busy on a day-to-day basis, it doesn't look reactive. Yet short-term work often looks much more frenetic than calm, anticipatory work. This may seem a little abstract at first, so let's break it down in an example.
It's easy for people to do work, and get work done. Yet we've all seen projects that become more about email chains back and forth than any actions taken. Let's say you're measuring the workflow and process of a potential partnering organization. Do you want to end up working with them or not?
One person tracks, another files, a temp worker scans, another creates a presentation, someone else makes sure it's all boxed away properly. That's great. You have all your data. What was the goal? What was being measured? Who in the team is assessing whether it was successful or not? When a flaw in the process was recorded, who approached the potential partner organization and attempted to problem solve it with them? You have no clue how this partner communicates, how accountable they are, or how hard they will or won't work to correct an error.
This lack of planning means that you don't have any lessons learned that you can then apply to making a business decision. The team assigned still did a mountain of work and they were kept busy the whole time. Yet in this example you can see that they accomplished very little.
Think of it like a film without a director. Actors show up and recite lines. Sets are lit. Scenes are filmed. Everyone looks busy because they are busy. Yet it might not work together, and you'll never even know because there's no one to put it together.
People need a sense of direction. One of the biggest advantages of strategic planning is that people know what they're working toward. They need overall goals so that they know how the work they're putting in is supposed to contribute. This way, they can identify when something is a waste of time. They can recognize when two tasks are redundant. They can streamline processes through their own expertise.
Operational Efficiency is Built on Morale
You hire the best people so that they can apply their experience and talent in a way that elevates your business. If they're only stuck on daily tasks, they can get that work done, but they aren't applying what makes them so valuable. It can also result in a lack of motivation that begins to see otherwise exceptional employees let up on their effort.
Understand that this isn't always their failure. It can be a failure of the organization for which they work. The benefits of strategic planning aren't just about being able to point people in a certain direction. They're about allowing employees, teams, and the organization itself to reach goals, share accomplishments, and then use those goals as a foundation to target and achieve their next goals.
Direction Determines Resource Allocation
A strategic plan means that all voices are helping to determine how it's shaped. This allows other skilled, experienced perspectives to contribute. A small group of people – even executives – won't see every potential oversight or pitfall. They'll see the plan well from the top-down, but there are dozens of smaller details that build on each other to either create successes or delays and failures. Remember, your employees are hired because they're good at their jobs. Let them be good at their jobs.
By seeing the overall goal at the outset, they'll be able to see potential issues, fixes, and improvements at every level of your strategic plan. This can help allocate time and resources in a way that's much more accurate to how they'll be needed and used.
“It's Always Been This Way”
Just because you haven't utilized a strategic plan before doesn't mean that it can't improve things now. It's a tool that both accelerates your plans and that allows you to accomplish more. It helps employees to be more versatile and more engaged. It allows you to assign resources more accurately and efficiently. It can help an organization stay durable and flexible. It can reduce turnover and help you keep your best employees.
It's also the best way to apply a successful and accountable culture within your organization. When a team is used to working with long-term goals in mind, they're less likely to get bogged down in minutiae. They're able to delegate more effectively at all levels. They're able to independently set their own goals within their own jobs, goals that help them stay engaged and that directly contribute to their department's and your organization's goals.