Have you ever sat at your desk and wondered what the next thing you should do is? Is the number of tasks and ‘should dos’ so large that you have trouble distinguishing any priority among them? This is a common situation for many of us in business. When it comes to creating a strategic plan, this same situation arises, ‘where should I start?’
The reason this is the easiest place to start your strategic planning process is that it is the most obvious. It is the most difficult because it relies on you and your ability to spend time clearly considering many factors that will influence the success or failure of your strategic planning and execution.
I use and recommend defining the vision you have for yourself, your people and your business as the starting point. This may sound easy, but in my experience, personally and with clients, this is often the most difficult part of the strategic planning journey. I like to define vision as seeing the business operating at its peak or optimum state. It need not be related to being the largest or most popular.
A business that operates at its peak fulfils its purpose, providing the best it can for its people, owners, customers and community. If you are a business owner or CEO, the vision stage starts with a deeply personal need to gain clarity. Gaining clarity is essential before you send out meeting invitations for ‘brainstorming’ sessions.
In what areas do you need to gain clarity? These will vary depending on your position, for example, a business owner or employed CEO. Other considerations are exit strategies, time horizons, impact on people, stakeholder issues, among others. If you are a business owner, have you lost touch with the vision that prompted you to start or buy the business in the first place? Are you able to deliver more wealth to shareholders? Are you the right person to drive and execute the strategic plan?
Treat strategic planning as a project. As you undertake the first process of defining the vision and all the factors included in it, these are some recommendations:
- write down everything you think about.
- include potential impacts to the people, business and stakeholders.
- use a two-column positive/negative analysis for ideas and initiatives you are unsure about.
- consult people in your network that can offer some objective analysis of your work.
- research competitors locally, nationally and internationally by looking at websites, reviews and LinkedIn profiles.
All this information is going to be used in the other stages of your strategic planning process, so it is important that it is curated so you can easily search for and find information later.
Your business vision can be written as a narrative, story or in a report style with bullet points. Regardless of how you document your vision, I like to encourage people to synthesise their vision into one or two statements that are easily communicated to the people, customers and other stakeholders of the business. To be effective, this statement must be clear, measurable, relatable and relevant.
Now that you have done the hard work, you have a framework to use when engaging others in the strategic planning process.
How collaborative learning can change your business for the better.
Collaborative learning is nothing new. We all know that people spend time looking for, reading, and watching content to help them do their work. In most cases, this informal learning is in reaction to an immediate need, and the source of information is an online search.
Imagine if all the informal learning achieved in this way was captured and available to everybody in your business. If one person needs to fill a gap in skill or knowledge to perform their work, it is likely others in your business share the need.
Is the knowledge already held by people in your business available to others? Does your business have a collective knowledge base that is aligned with the work your business performs? Collective, accessible knowledge and information that is created, curated and shared is one of the powerful contributors to engagement and culture in a business. Collaborative learning is also an effective means of providing recognition to people that contribute to the collective knowledge.
Our clients are using training and information created by people in their business to deliver effective onboarding to people joining the business. This has standardised the onboarding experience for every person. Using collaborative learning also assists people to identify subject matter experts in the business and get a feel for the work other people perform in the business.
Here are some ideas to consider.
- Ideally every person in your business has some knowledge of your strategy and how their work contributes to achieving it. If not, this is where I would suggest you start. I would suggest taking it a step or two further by breaking your strategy into supporting goals and team objectives. If your business is small and does not have teams, consider assigning objectives to functional areas of responsibility in the business, and this could be one person. I recommend the strategy, goals and objectives are documented and communicated regularly.
- Use the strategy framework to open a clear line of sight between the work they perform every day in the business to what needs to be completed to achieve the strategy.
- This process will help guide the types and content of learning, information and ideas developed by everyone to be directly relevant to both the strategy and the work performed every day. This is a great place to start, and it will get collaborative learning embedded in your organisation.
- Once you have collaborative learning embedded in your business and aligned with strategy, you can take it much further. For example, you may choose to use collaborative learning in your marketing, sales, customer retention, product development and any other aspect of your business.
- Implementing a cogent collaborative strategy in your business will have a positive impact on the development of intellectual property that will add significant value to your business.
Is your business exploring ways to improve the culture? Boost engagement? Retain your best people? These factors and more will be developed and sustained with a planned collaborative learning strategy and implementation.
If you are interested in learning more about collaborative learning and ideas about how to implement collaborative learning in your business, you are welcome to contact me directly via LinkedIn OR through our website.
Brian Clark | Founder & CEO