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.
In working with leaders of companies where top-line revenue is growing between 20 – 50% per year, there’s often a feeling that “we’re in great shape”. But when you go deeper and look at the low morale, high amounts of stress and drama, mistakes made and poor communication, you can see that companies too often are not prepared to deal with the growth or that maintaining the level of growth is not sustainable.
As a CEO or leader, two critical areas to focus on are your people and your execution. You have to step back and work with your leadership team and ask (then answer) some very important questions:
- Do we have the right people in our organization? (and do I have the right people on my leadership team)?
- Are my managers all “A players?”
- Would I enthusiastically rehire everyone in my organization?
- Are we regularly reviewing every six months our talent and going through an “A, B, C Player” Assessment?
- Are we developing our B players and exiting our C players?
- Do we have a process for finding and hiring the best people we can?
- Do I have everyone on the same page?
- Are we all aligned on the priorities – for the company and individuals?
- Are we focused on the right projects and goals for this quarter?
- Do we have KPI’s in place to measure our results?
- Are all processes inside the business running smoothly without drama?
- Are we having effective meetings and moving communication throughout the organization?
First work with your leadership team to answer these questions. Then dig deep and begin to create plans for overcoming any deficiencies.
Top-line sales growth can be a blessing, but without the right people and flawless execution, you might start thinking that it’s a curse.
The last four days, I had the privilege of attending the 2015 Fortune Magazine/Gazelles Growth Summit, in Dallas, Texas.
Four days with my fellow Gazelles coaches and presentations by some of the greatest business thought leaders (and authors) of our day: Ron Kaufman on Uplifting Service, Adele Revella on Buyer Persona, Andrew Davis on Brandscaping, John Mullins on The Customer-Funded Business, Jeff Sutherland on Scrum, David Rendall on The Freak Factor, and Verne Harnish on Scaling Up.
We shared ideas, debated issues and sharpened our saws.
This session impacted my entire being – brain, heart, soul and spirit. At the core is the love of learning. I want to continue learning. To not learn means I stop growing, expanding and changing and I start dying (little by little each day).
I want you to keep learning about whatever it is that you love, whatever it is you are passionate about. Read books, magazines, blogs and articles. Watch videos, YouTube and webinars. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks or any other way you like to learn.
You will become smarter and discover new parts of yourself, plus you will impact and inspire others – your family, friends, teams, colleagues and associates. And there is no greater gift that you can give.