What’s Your Plan? (Part 2)

They say that the first step to success is having clearly defined goals. They should be written down and reviewed regularly. In fact, many experts speak to studies that show individuals who take the time to articulate their goals in writing have a much higher likelihood of actually achieving them.

If goals are the first step toward success, I believe having a strategy is definitely the second. A goal without a plan is just a dream. And like your goals, your strategic plan should be as clearly defined as possible. It should be written down and referred to on a regular basis.

Last week I promised to walk through the steps to creating a basic strategic plan. If you’ll follow this outline, you should wind up with a roadmap for achieving the goals that have been set out for your team. That’s what a well-written plan does. It not only points you in the right direction, but spells out the steps required to arrive at the desired destination.

There are five steps to developing your strategic plan.

1. DEFINE. Start by defining your goals as narrowly as possible. Perhaps your goal is to grow sales by 5% over the next year. Well, 5% of what, exactly? What specific products do you need to focus on? What group of customers or prospects? What are the interim goals you need to achieve so that a 5% growth becomes possible? What are the deadlines involved?

By defining the goal as much as possible, you start to break the journey down into more manageable pieces. When staring at a forest, it can be difficult to determine which tree you should cut down first. The more you define the expectations in front of you, the more you start to focus in on specific solutions

2. DESIGN. Having identified, as specifically as possible, what it is you are after, the second step is to create a rough outline of your action plan. Pull the team together and brainstorm activities that will help you achieve each goal. This process involves the entire team. Anyone involved in executing the plan ought to be part of developing it.

When brainstorming, remember that the goal of the exercise is to come up with as many ideas as possible. In order to achieve this, you must create an environment conducive to sharing ideas. Make sure the team understands the rules of brainstorming:
* No negativity. We don’t judge the ideas presented by others.

* Limit distractions. Try to eliminate outside influences that will interfere with the team’s ability to focus on the exercise.

* Crazy ideas are ok. Some ideas might be laughable, but they are still valuable as conduits to other lines of thinking.

* Keep moving. Don’t dig too deep into any the specifics of any one idea. The goal of brainstorming is volume. Talking through any one idea at length will bring the flow of ideas to a halt.

* Start individually. Have team members walk into the meeting having already written down a few ideas of their own. This will help jump start the process.


3. REFINE.
Now that you have a list of potential strategies, it’s time to start trimming it down and refining the best ones. Settle on the best ideas and then start tightening each one up by asking a series of questions.

What does that look like? What will we get? What would this strategy to fail? Keep asking questions until you have a plan of action that can’t be refined any further.

4. ALIGN. Determine what resources you need in order to execute your plan. Are there people outside the team you need to bring in? Are there marketing resources you need to create? Are there budget or approval hurdles that need to be cleared? Make sure you have all the necessary pieces aligned to help ensure your team’s success.

5. ASSIGN. The final step in developing your strategic plan is to assign responsibility for each bit. Determine who has ownership of each step and verify understanding of expectations. Don’t walk away from a great strategic plan without addressing this part.

Now that you have a plan, it may feel like the work is done, but it’s just beginning. The plan is meaningless without action. Next week, we’ll take a look at some tips for implementing your strategic plan.

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