How to improve your strategic planning and see real results

by Carly Clyne | Jan 24, 2022

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Taking the steps to improve strategic planning within your organisation will help you bring your business growth plans to life. If you’re familiar with the basics of strategic planning, you probably know how beneficial it can be for your business. Used by global giants including Meta (formerly Facebook), Apple and Google, in recent years it has left the realms of corporate exclusivity and is now being used by businesses of all shapes and sizes to harness a more efficient and organised way of working.

Seeing the myriad ways in which improving strategic planning can propel and advance a business – from enhanced employee motivation to swifter and more successful acquisition of goals and targets – is easy. However, understanding how to implement a basic strategic planning process for your business is often easier said than done.

At TBG we’re used to seeing just how powerful attention to detail and careful consideration can be when determining the overall direction of a company and the steps that are needed to take it to the next level. But when we combine the powerful benefits of a solid strategic plan with a firm framework of OKRs, that’s when we see the magic happen.

Here we take a look at common planning problems to look out for and how to improve your strategic planning skills.

How do you know if your strategic planning is working? 

Unless a strategic plan provides needed clarity and lays out the right methods and goals, it can end up doing more harm than good, or doing nothing at all. 

If your strategic planning isn’t working, it could be down to one of many factors:

  • It lacks buy-in – even the greatest of strategic plans will go nowhere without buy-in from the key stakeholders in the organisation. Ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard during the creation of the plan is an important way to help ensure buy-in.
  • It lacks clarity –  You’ll run into issues if the future vision is too broad for employees to really know what will be different when that vision is fully implemented. Strategic plans must clarify who will do what to reach each goal.
  • It’s a bad strategy – In some cases, organisations just have a bad strategy. This could mean that they haven’t been paying attention to the changing environment around them and end up repeating what’s been done in the past. 
  • There’s no follow-through – Your strategic plans can fail because the necessary follow-up doesn’t happen. This could mean employees aren’t held accountable for their role in implementing the plan or the organisation doesn’t make the necessary changes to its structure and processes to support the new direction. 

How to improve your strategic planning process and skills

Many are frustrated by their lack of impact on the strategic direction of the company. This sense of disappointment was captured in a recent McKinsey Quarterly survey of nearly 800 executives: just 45% of the respondents said they were satisfied with the strategic planning process. So what can leaders do to improve the process and take their strategic planning skills up a notch? 

There are many ways to improve strategic planning once you’ve got the wheels turning. First, start with the issues. Identify and discuss the strategic planning issues that will have the greatest impact on future business performance. Doing this will ensure that management does not waste time and energy on less important topics.

Next, bring together the right people. An issues-based approach won’t do much good unless the most relevant people are involved. Those who carry out the strategy should also be involved in developing it. 

Focus on growth opportunities. Sadly, many companies don’t particularly focus their planning on new opportunities for growth. A key reason for having a strategic plan is to understand the opportunities for growth and to make decisions on how best to pursue these opportunities. Evaluate the market and competitive environment to identify your best opportunities. 

Consider using OKRs during the strategic planning process

We are fully behind using OKRs (Objectives and key results), during your strategic planning process. We use the OKR framework to streamline and improve strategic planning processes for our clients. OKRs are the execution tool for your business strategy; they provide ambitious, short-term business goals that will help you bring your strategic plan to life.

Aligning your team to company goals and allowing them to see how they can individually contribute, what they’re accountable for and how they’re part of the bigger picture often achieves more than goals themselves. Connecting your employees to a strategic business plan helps to build culture, the kind of culture that fosters productivity and efficiency and with this comes improved productivity.

OKRs must be used as part of a broader strategic process and must not be developed in isolation if they are to have genuine strategic value – otherwise, they become another tactical tool.

How we help you take your strategic planning skills to the next level

If you’re struggling with your strategy, you’re not alone, but there is something you can do about it. Understanding where your strategy falls short and taking action to get back on track are the first steps toward a more successful future for your organisation. Talk to our team today to find out how we can support you with your strategic planning.