Your 15-point strategic planning checklist – Part 4

My previous post in this series described the reasons for the preferred answer to questions 4 and 5 on the strategic planning checklist. Today, it’s the turn of questions 6, 7 and 8.

Question 6:

Do all employees within the company know the plan goals for the current plan year, and can they explain how they are expected to contribute to the achievement of the goals?

The answer should be “yes”. Strategic and operational plans break down when they fail to consider those responsible for executing the plans. There are two factors related to this point:

  • The first is the need for plans to be well constructed so as to offer the needed details of the underlying layers of supporting initiatives. Detailed plan components should offer great clarity related to who, what, when, where and why.
  • Of equal importance to the completeness and thoroughness of the plan is the communication aspect.

Communication strategies as a plan component are critical in order to promote the major themes behind the plan’s goals / key outcomes. The communication plan component must ensure that each area of the business enterprise has been considered relative to who needs to know what information about the plan and by when they need to know it. Well-timed, concise and clear communication will go further towards gaining support in the organisation and producing meaningful contributions during execution.

I recommend the creation of marketing pitches for each of the plan goals / key outcomes. The idea here is to provide as much clarity as possible when communications related to the plan are considered. Also, consider developing personas of the “customer” that is the primary recipient of the value the plan goal will create. The customer can be an internal customer in the event that the goal does not relate to an actual market or customer group.

Question 7:

Have you communicated with key business partners and suppliers of the organisation about the plan goals that might affect them, and where they could assist in the achievement of one or more plan goals?

Of course, the right answer here is “yes”. Always enlist the help of business relationships within the value chain that in some way support the products and services that are supplied by your organisation. An external communications plan is important to the successful execution of plan goals and should contain messaging tailored to help suppliers understand why they are being asked for price reductions or quantity discounts not currently part of your normal purchasing arrangements.

By communicating openly about your organisation’s goals and the role your external business relationships play in your success in achieving those goals, cooperation can be gained and closer, more rewarding business relations established.

Question 8:

Is there any room for misinterpretation of the intent or desired outcome for any plan goals?

If you answered “yes”, the plan goals should be revisited to correct for vagueness. Ambiguous plan goals lead to variability of interpretation and misfires in execution. Not saying clearly what we want leads to misinterpretation. In planning efforts, that in turn translates into risk that the actual achievement of the desired strategic outcomes may fail.

Most planning processes introduce variability into the plan from the very beginning – at the time plan goals are defined. If there is room for interpretation in your plan goals, you have this issue.

By using a very controlled vocabulary in defining outcome-driven goals, you can avoid this mistake. For example, a clearly defined outcome would look like this: “Reduce raw materials cost for XYZ unit by 3%.” An example of a vague and more ambiguous plan goal would be: “Trim production costs in XYZ unit.”

Strategy is formulated at the top and the CEO is directly accountable for establishing the direction and the process for strategic and operational planning to unfold effectively. Communication of the plan goals is a very important part of that process and another huge factor in accomplishing the creation of meaningful operational plans.

One approach to consider in the overall communications strategy is to translate plan goals into strategy statements that the organisation can embrace and enact. The intent is to effectively disseminate the executive vision throughout the organisational ranks so that empowered employees will be energised and capable of helping their organisation.

As with the business strategy, the communication of the business goals must be carefully planned and well-orchestrated to achieve the intended results. Communications must target the right messages to the right people in the organisation at the time that they need to receive the message.

My next post in this series will help you evaluate your responses to questions 9, 10 and 11. For clarification of any of the points mentioned above, email me or call me on 020 7099 2621.