Mark has a great post about 2009 being the year of execution. Great execution doesn’t mean shying away from strategic planning but most people either don’t know how to create a strategic plan or end up doing too much navel gazing. Remember, strategy is not what’s written down on paper but what you and your team implicitly believe is the direction you should go. If you’re wondering what your strategy is, ask your staff to tell you. It’s often an eye-opener.
The question is, how can you proactively create a strategy that’s actually useful and will drive your execution? I now avoid the whole “vision-mission-strategy-goals” method and go for something simple yet effective.
Step 1: Go back to basics
The one-line strategy is not as easy as it looks. Choosing one goal (to the exclusion of others) is a challenge and you’ll find that your Board and your executive team may disagree about what’s important. Have those debates now when the strategy is simple. People will also disagree about the timeframe. Your investor think a year is too long to wait for profitability and your operations team thinks it’s not enough time.
Step 2: Translate into key areas
I breakdown strategies into no more than 4 key areas (you can pick your own). People are at the top because you can’t just set goals and sit back and watch. You have to actively manage to your strategy. I make customers (rather than revenues or clicks) its own category because a lot of companies treat customers like means to an end rather than focusing on creating value for them. Product development is obviously key for any tech company (and I consider services a product). Finally, in 2009 you’d better make your finances a key strategy.
I would avoid making functional areas (like marketing, sales, tech, admin) the categories as this is you-centric rather than stakeholder-centric.
Step 3: Make a quarterly plan
- Each goal is worded in such a way that it will be easy to measure if you’ve achieved it. Avoid effort-based goals like “work on marketing plan” and “hold weekly meetings”. Focus on deliverables.
- Be specific. Some of the goals in the example are actually too vague. Being very specific holds you to a higher standard when it’s time to see if you’ve achieved your goals.
- All the strategies should be linked so that moving left to right and top to bottom, you achieve your ultimate goal (which was set in Step 1). This is not easy and the more time you spend setting and synchronizing your goals, the more you’ll learn about how to plan for great execution.