When setting out to develop a strategic plan as part of the annual planning process, it’s crucial for leaders to understand the difference between Strategic Thinking and Execution Planning.
Strategic thinking is done by the leadership team, engaging in discussions defining the companies core ideologies (values and purpose): core customer, brand promise; Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) and the 3-5 year targets / winning moves.
Execution planning is about the short-term – what happens within the 12 months, and more specifically, the next quarter (or 13-week period). This involves creating the quarterly goals (rocks).
While both of these functions must include the organization’s leadership team, outstanding results occur when the next level of managers are brought into the execution planning process.
A recent 2-day Annual Planning offsite proved to create outstanding momentum for one of my clients. On the first day, the leadership team focused on strategic thinking. We reviewed the rocks from the previous year and quarter, then developed targets, priorities and critical numbers for the next year and upcoming quarter.
The second day, next level of managers joined the leadership team and developed the details of the 1-year and quarterly priorities. Blended sub-groups worked at flip charts outlining the detailed tasks that needed to occur over the next 13-weeks. Cross-functional “Rock Teams” were formed with members from different functional areas joining together to plan out the tasks and activities that needed to occur for each of the four new company rocks that were created for the quarter.
The effect of this effort created five (5) powerful outcomes:
- The company developed a strong execution plan for Q1.
- The next level of managers felt significant, respected and included.
- Some new hi-potential managers stood out to the delight of the leadership team.
- Action plans were created for communicating to the next (third) level in the organization.
- Accountability and alignment were crystal clear and the company was energized.
Leaders must set the course with strategic thinking, but true wonders occur when their managers are involved in the execution planning process.