Strategic planning. It’s a popular term in corporate leadership and a task that enterprises can spend significant time, effort, and money on. And yet, an overwhelming number of corporate strategies fail. After weeks or months of hard work, leadership will unveil their strategic plan, only to have its beautifully crafted long-term goals fall by the wayside. At best, they might gather dust in the cloud. At worst, they can confuse, frustrate, and divide teams.
When carried out properly, a strategic plan can be a hugely helpful asset to a company, helping them map out how to get from where they are now to where they want to go. However, around 40 percent of executive leaders say their executive teams aren’t aligned on how to actually execute their strategic plans. Unfortunately, if your strategic plan looks more like a beautiful vision board of your end destination—without a concrete and aligned plan detailing how to get there—chances are you’ll never reach your goal.
Fortunately, there are ways that you can translate your organization’s strategic plan into teams’ day-to-day work—all while gaining stakeholder consensus, employee buy-in, and concrete steps to guide teams to your dream destination. The right path starts with creating a strong, actionable strategic plan.
How To Create A Strategic Plan
Simply put, a strategic plan lays out what you would like your business to look like and how you plan to get there. According to Gartner, companies that can unlock teams’ capacity to work on new growth strategies can increase their profitability by up to 77%. That’s no small potatoes—and demonstrates just what a well-executed strategic plan can do for your company.
Most strategic plans include the following basic points:
- A company description (your elevator pitch)
- Your mission statement
- Your vision and value statements
- An analysis of your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis)
- An analysis of the current internal and external environment and how they each affect your company
- Your business goals
- Your action plan to achieve those goals
To make sure your goals are actionable, you’ll then want to break down your action plan into concrete goals for each quarter of the coming year. Make them “SMART” goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. This will help you ensure your goals are actually achievable and will move you towards your larger vision in baby steps.
The board below shows an example of how you can map out your strategic plan on Trello. Starting with a strategic planning template, you can break down your strategic objectives into specific deliverables, then explain the steps you’ll take each quarter to help you get there.
Within each card listed in the Q1 column, you can then break down your quarterly goals even further, identifying the general actions different departments will need to take in order to make progress against each goal.
Leads from each team can be tagged into cards, as well, so that they know the goals and deliverables they’re responsible for.
How To Translate Your Strategic Plan Into Day-to-Day Work
Once you’ve broken down your strategic plan into quarterly goals, it’s time to make sure teams actually make progress against them in their day-to-day work.
Get Buy-In From Team Members
The first step to making sure a strategic plan is actually implemented is to get buy-in from employees during the process of setting departments’ quarterly directions. Of course, leadership will likely decide on the company’s roadmap without having its hundreds—or thousands—of employees weigh in. But when it comes to deciding how different departments can help reach those goals, employees should be involved from the outset—for two good reasons.
First of all, engaging employees in a two-way conversation has consistently shown better results than simply mandating tasks from the top-down. According to Gartner, using an open-source change management strategy—where employees are actively involved in designing change processes—can increase your chances of succeeding by up to 24%. (Involving employees in deciding the processes of your change management strategy can also increase employee engagement by up to 38%.) You can do this by having managers brainstorm options with their teams, leading design sprints, or surveying employees on their preferred path forward.
Secondly, since employees are also on the frontline of your business, involving them in strategic decision-making can help you test assumptions about your strategy. Considering that 83% of strategies can fail thanks to faulty assumptions, this step is critical. As leaders climb the ladder, they can often become removed from customers’ day-to-day requests, feedback, and struggles. By involving frontline employees in developing your strategy implementation plans, you can test your assumptions and brainstorm with colleagues who are actually dealing with these issues daily.
Communicate Early and Often
Similar to the Marketing Rule of 7—which states that prospects need to see or hear a company’s message at least seven times before they take action on it—leadership needs to keep new strategic goals and initiatives top of mind for employees. Far too many companies will hand over an outsized check to a consulting company for a new strategy, only to poorly communicate it to employees and let it fade into the background.
To ensure your strategic plan’s initiatives are getting prime time in employees’ workdays, make sure they’re documented and have concrete tasks and deadlines attached to them. After a team settles on how they’ll achieve a quarterly goal, that project should be broken down into tasks and documented. A project management board outlining specific deliverables, research needs, and tasks should be laid out, with relevant stakeholders tagged and deadlines set.
Trello’s Timeline view can also be a helpful tool to use in this case. Timeline view allows you to view all the cards on a board on a timeline, which you can toggle to a monthly, quarterly, or yearly view depending on your needs. This lets you plan backward in order to meet deadlines and ensure goals are being met.
But don’t stop at simply putting together a project board. Make sure you’re regularly talking through strategic initiatives, opportunities, and roadblocks during your daily or weekly team stand-ups, and add these initiatives to your team-wide and company-wide meetings and updates. With everyone on board and consistent reminders of teams’ strategic priorities, it’ll be easier to meet your goals come year-end.
Unlock Teams’ Capacity To Tackle New Goals
Last—but certainly not least—it’s important to look at employees’ schedules and clear out room for them to tackle new strategic initiatives. If you treat teams like a layer cake and simply add more to their plates, you risk having tasks slip through the cracks or harming employees’ wellbeing.
If team members already have plates full of their usual projects and tasks, they won’t have the capacity to make progress against your new strategic objectives. Make sure managers are addressing employees’ individual workloads in one-on-one meetings and that priorities are discussed. If non-essential work can be paused until later in the year, do so. If any routine tasks—such as email follow-ups, inbox monitoring, or project updates—can be automated, consider layering automation into teams’ daily workflows. According to Automation Everywhere, that simple act could free up to three hours a day for your average employee.
How To Track Progress Against Your Strategic Goals
While regular, clear communication is a great way to stay up-to-date on how teams are progressing against your organization’s goals, you can also use your usual work management tools to stay informed. Consider having teams tag cards on their Trello boards with the strategic goal the work aligns to (if any). By sorting cards per label, you can then use Trello’s Dashboard view to see how much of teams’ day-to-day work is rolling back up to your company’s strategic plan.
Regularly checking your teams’ Dashboards is a great way to keep a temperature check on goals. If you find that employees are prioritizing some goals at the expense of others, you can bring that up during team meetings, helping them reprioritize to focus on the tasks that need attention. If direct reports are getting caught up in routine work that doesn’t make progress against strategic initiatives, you can explore how to take some work off their plate during one-on-one meetings.
Stay Focused On The Initiatives That Matter With Trello Enterprise
Implementing a new strategy is never easy, and it takes alignment all the way from the top tiers of leadership down to your frontline employees. Hiccups and setbacks are natural as you figure out how to steer your ship from Point A to Point B as a company—after all, when a ship is set off course by just a couple of degrees, it can end up meaning thousands of miles. But with strong communication, engagement, and practices that allow you to track progress, you can make sure that your strategic plan functions as a compass to your destination.
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