As much as we try, there are some things that come naturally and some things that don’t.
One of those “love-it-or-hate-it” activities is business planning, also known as strategic planning. The whole point of doing this is to define your organization’s:
- overall direction (Strategy),
- which goals you want to achieve (Objectives),
- using which actions and resources (Tactics), and
- how you’ll know it was successful (Measures).
I abbreviate Vision, Mission, Values, Objectives, and Measures with the acronym VMVOM.
Why is Planning so Difficult?
Anticipating the future of a business isn’t easy, even for someone with natural planning abilities and Strategic Thinking strengths like the ones seen below.
(The Clifton StrengthsFinder® list of 34 talents below is divided into 4 domains of leadership: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking.)
While our natural strengths can give us an edge in some aspects of running a business, it doesn’t guarantee success. Some aspects might be relatively easy to do. In other areas, we may struggle.
If you enjoy futuristic discussions, then you may have trouble designing and implementing a realistic plan.
If you’re more of a get-it-done type of person, then spending hours in abstract thought can feel extremely uncomfortable.
Planning requires you to think about:
- what could go wrong,
- how things could (or should) change,
- which things need to be adjusted, and
- where you’re ultimately headed.
In some ways, strategic planning is like brushing your teeth. It isn’t the most pleasant task. It requires a lot of time and consistent effort. But when done right, you’ll enjoy the results for many years.
The SHAPE Model
How can you can tell whether your strategic plan is working properly? I recommend using the SHAPE model, which has 5 core elements of a successful strategic plan. It stands for Structured, Honest, Accurate, Participatory, and Energizing.
Ideally: Your plan has a well-defined framework.
- How clear is your planning process? Are the boundaries, rules, and limitations explained?
- Are you following Strategic Planning Best Practices?
Ideally: Your staff have great trust in your decisions as a leader.
- Do your staff truly believe you have their best interests at heart?
- What is your employee attrition rate? (One indicator of employee satisfaction are the turnover and engagement scores.)
Ideally: Your strategic plan has been successfully implemented.
- Are top-level decisions in line with your overall strategy?
- Do you welcome “bad news”—information that may be unpleasant, but which can help your company to improve?
Ideally: The planning process involves feedback from all levels in the organization.
- Are you keeping top-level decisions in the boardroom, or do you involve stakeholders in a participatory decision-making process?
- How much would your staff say they are involved in future planning?
- When someone suggests a new idea, what is the process to make sure their suggestion is evaluated, implemented, and monitored?
Ideally: Your plan creates a sense of enthusiasm for the future.
- Is everyone in your organization excited about the future?
- Can each employee explain the company’s vision, mission, and values, and how their role plays a part in getting there?
- Do you use Healthy Feedback Loops to optimize physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth in your organization?
By evaluating your business through the lens of the SHAPE questions, you’ll be able to see where to prioritize your time and effort. And as a result, you can be better prepared to avoid future threats and identify the best way to grow your business.
Interested in hearing how you can reverse a toxic workplace? Find out more here.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.