1: It’s been an excellent strategic planning meeting.  

Our leadership team has put forward a HOT or huge, outrageous target, the one, longer-term goal “that matters most . . . Failure to achieve it will make every other accomplishment pale by comparison.”

Next, we have set clear goals for the year that move us toward our huge, outrageous target.  

We’re done, right?  

Not so fast, say Mark Moses and his co-authors in Making Big Happen. “Unfortunately, we often see companies declare success at the point of defining their annual goals and call the annual planning session complete,” they write. “Setting annual goals is the easy part. The more difficult proposition is to determine the initiatives and the specific and measurable activities that lead to achieving those outcomes.”

2: Now is the time to lay out a Strategic Roadmap for the year to outline how we will achieve our goals. We will need to break down our annual strategy into executable quarterly themes throughout the coming year.

We begin by determining “the key company initiatives that will lead to achieving the yearly goals,” the authors write. “These are the projects that will require the company’s full organizational resources.”

We start with the question: What could we do? The objective here is “divergent brainstorming,” which “should yield thirty to forty potential initiatives depending on the size and complexity of our company,” note Mark and his co-authors. “Put the list on flip chart paper, then stick them on the wall so everybody can see them.”

Next, we ask: What should we do?  

We begin deciding upon the top five initiatives for the upcoming year. We look to see if we can combine any initiatives. We open it up for debate and have leadership team members advocate for those they believe are most important. We debate and ultimately vote as a team to determine the top three to five.

Next, we assign one owner to each initiative. Why one owner? “Because shared ownership is no ownership,” the authors write.

Each initiative owner then leads a smaller group to answer the following questions:

* What is the most effective title for this initiative?

* What does “success” look like when it is complete?

* What are the big milestones or stagegates and corresponding dates?

* What Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will it impact? The authors write: “If we can’t define it, we can’t measure it; if we can’t measure it, we can’t manage it.” So, we must be clear on how we will measure it and how this initiative will drive the outcomes we want for the year.  

* What are the specific levels of support that will be required from others?

Once the small groups complete their work, each owner shares their answers with the larger group to get feedback. Once any modifications are made, the company-wide initiatives for the year are now set.  

The next agenda item is to ask: “What could get in the way of achieving our plan?” We want to practice foresight about what issues may come up and discuss how we will respond.  

We then record our annual goals, initiatives, and KPIs on our Company Dashboard. This high-level tool broadcasts to the entire organization how well we are performing. At a glance, we know where we stand on each KPI vs. the target. We update and review the scorecard frequently, so everyone is aligned on what we are driving toward. When we are off target, we take corrective action.

The last step is to document the commitments made and captured during the meeting using a simple “Who-What-When” tool. “These are not full-blown initiatives but rather the to-do items that come out of the session,” the authors write. “They are properly identified by continuously asking ‘Who will do what by when?’ whenever a task comes up in any meeting.  

3: As a final note, Mark and his co-authors strongly recommend using a skilled facilitator to lead the meeting. This person helps the team utilize “divergent thinking, convergent thinking, prioritizing, voting, and challenging so we arrive at a manageable number of initiatives that have a high probability of achieving our goals for the year.  

They write: “A properly facilitated session will ensure that every action item has an owner and a due date.”

More tomorrow.

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Reflection: How would I grade myself and my team on our annual strategic planning meeting? Which best practices outlined would improve our current process?

Action: Discuss with my team.

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