- July 23, 2009
- Posted by: andreag
Frequently we get calls from leaders in organizations requesting strategic planning. As we move through the conversation, however, it often becomes clear that the leader really is looking for a solution to a problem he or she can’t solve, and they reach for the consultant tool they are most familiar with – the strategic plan.
What is usually at play is that the organization is struggling to move forward at an acceptable pace in a complex, rapidly changing competitive environment. To get and maintain a competitive advantage, an organization needs both “vector” and “velocity”. We have found that a combination of two tools well-executed is the answer.
Strategic Planning is Your Vector, Defining Direction and Execution
Direction and execution are the core of strategic planning, i.e., the overarching what for who and how. The strategic plan is where you determine your vision and the vivid description outlining the specifics of that vision. It is also where you plan out your strategic initiatives or key projects to move you toward that vision.
Strategic planning is absolutely necessary. It’s your vector. Your course of execution. Your roadmap.
Your Processes Determine Velocity
But, once you have your strategic plan, you must consider this: At the end of the day, “…you will only get what your systems will deliver.” The quote is from W. Edwards Deming, the father of the quality movement. What’s meant is that, regardless of the quality of your strategic plan, your systems (such as your communications, production, management information, training, and so on), will determine how well your organization can execute your strategic plan. In short, your processes will determine your velocity or speed.
So then to get the most from the vector and the velocity, you need to have both a sound template for creating your strategy and the streamlined systems in the organization that will deliver consistent high quality results. We have found the following as critical components for maximizing both your vector and your velocity.
Strategic planning essentials:
- a strong, stretch vision
- internal projects that strengthen the organization
- strategic projects to grow the organization
- clear accountability assigned to deliver the results described
And for process improvement:
- front line teams that understand the complexities of the process
- breakthrough concepts that deliver at 50% or more improvement in the process
- management and leadership support of the change
- an understanding of the impact of change on individuals and how to step them through successfully
Non-Profits Are Not Excluded
Both strategic planning and process improvement can dramatically impact the ability to serve and the satisfaction of a non-profit’s clients. Two of our most successful projects to help clients improve processes were with State agencies. The Alaska State Department of Transportation teams re-designed and implemented processes for issuing permits in the highway right-of-way. The new processes took just 50 percent of the man-hours of the previous ones. Savings to the State were in the millions, according to the governor. Similarly, the Division of Public Assistance reorganized and restructured its welfare program resulting in bonuses and recognition from the federal government on its highly successful Welfare to Work program.
Do you have both covered?
In the end, vector and velocity are both essential pieces of a thriving organization – whether for-profit or not. Do you have a strategic plan in place that is guiding the decisions and direction of the organization? Do you have a handle on your processes – knowing their performance and working to keep a continuous improvement mentality? Is your staff aware of the big picture direction and intimately involved in defining the processes that will help you to get there?
If not, dig around our site for more tips and tools to help you move forward. Or contact us for a free Discovery process.