Strategic planning comes in many forms, and there are different methodologies to create a successful plan to guide companies to achieve their goals.
While many companies have some type of annual planning process to define goals and budgets, the plans are often more tactical than strategic. Too often, the plans define short-term goals by quarter for the next year. For example:
- In-plant managers often have a defined operating budget but lack the clarity to connect their services to their organization’s strategic goals.
- Technical teams may have defined projects to implement but lack the time and resources to develop new products/services.
- Senior leaders typically track and review the financial goals quarterly. As a consultant, I hear about quarterly success or failures. Often the reviews are financially driven without detailed context of the strategies and steps that resulted in success or the gaps that prevented achieving the desired goals.
2020 required changes to business strategies, processes, and operational plans. Preparing for 2021 may have been more of a battle for budget dollars and resources than a planning and goal setting process. Managers in many departments could be pitted against each other to win their slice of the pie.
Whether your budget is finalized, or a work in progress, now is the time for strategic planning. It starts with simple questions that require straightforward answers to drive effective strategies for growth and change. The goal is to create alignment with your organizations’ larger goals and clarity for your team on departmental goals and projects.
- What were the departmental results for 2020?
- What were the organization’s results for 2020?
- What new procedures/services worked in response to changing business conditions?
- What can we do better?
- What are the financial goals for 2021?
- How can our department impact the organization’s strategic goals?
- What new services or capabilities can we implement?
- What resources and tools are needed to achieve our goals?
- What education and training will support our goals?
- What challenges and obstacles can we expect?
Your team or organization can only impact results if everyone is truly aligned on specific goals and strategies for 2021. Too often, I hear there’s no time to do planning. Managers complain that they’re too busy getting all the jobs out. Last year many companies learned the real value of strategic planning when they had to make dramatic changes to daily operations, staffing; and implement new safety procedures in response to the pandemic. Some in-plants are thriving while others are struggling.
In-plant managers are often challenged to educate their customers about their capabilities. It’s important to share new ideas for print and mail applications as organizational needs for communications continue to evolve. Improving internal awareness is an excellent goal for 2021. This can be accomplished with several strategies for internal communications.
Aligning on a shared future – defined by specific goals and metrics – empowers the teams to think differently and create new strategies for their organizations and departments.
An effective planning process enables teams to define goals and projects that are the building blocks to reach the shared vision. By defining smaller projects with goals, milestones and metrics, the team will create the path forward. The process of creating projects and tasks and taking small steps, with metrics, enables companies see their future vision become reality.
Strategic thinking requires a different level of creativity and critical thinking to map out a vision for the future. How will our department need to change and evolve to remain relevant as technology and the industry change? What will cause disruption for us? For our customers? What will take to achieve success? Where will new competition come from? Big questions that require time, commitment and creativity to boldly to plan for the future.
A commitment to strategic planning from the leadership team will enable managers to put aside daily responsibilities, pause, and creatively define projects that will lead to larger goals. Managing and measuring to a defined strategic plan is distinguishing success factor for leading companies.
A strategic plan doesn’t need to be a lengthy document that sits on a shared drive. An effective strategic plan can be a three-page document that clearly defines the future state and goals for each department. Spending the time to create alignment among the entire company and having the discipline to manage to a strategic plan will provide clarity, energy and passion that informs daily decisions and generates results.
Lois Ritarossi, CMC®, is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at https://www.highrockstrategies.com/ or Lritarossi@highrockstrategies.com
Input for this article was provided by Mark Fallon.
Mark M. Fallon is president and CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. The company develops customized solutions integrating proven management concepts with emerging technologies to achieve total process management. He offers a vision of the document that integrates technology, data quality, process integrity, and electronic delivery. His successes are based upon using leadership to implement innovative solutions in the document process. You can contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.