How to Ensure Your Strategic Planning will be Successful in 2023

We are now in Q3 and approaching Q4 when many organizations and businesses begin to develop their strategic plans for the year(s) ahead. Organizations place a high value on strategic planning, evidenced by the fact that they can spend anywhere between 50 and 1000 hours and thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars to develop their strategic plan.   

But what kind of return on investment is your organization really going to get from the strategic planning process?   

Unfortunately, for many organizations, the return is nothing more than a beautiful PowerPoint deck and some well-documented wishful thinking.   

But we also have good news. There are things your organization can do right now that will dramatically improve your chances of success.   

Why is there a disconnect between strategic planning and strategic action?  

Most organizations create their strategic plans by focusing on mid-term business outcomes such as increased market share, revenue and product, or service enhancements to grow the business. These plans can look and feel very robust and clear; however, what is frequently overlooked in these plans is whether the organization’s leadership team believes in and understands the strategy and whether they are aligned and working to carry it out. Without this alignment, any strategy will be doomed to fail.  

In order for the strategic plan to be successful, the organization must:  

  1. a) articulate their desired future state or where they want to be,  
  2. b) define where they are now compared to their desired future state, and  
  3. c) be honest about what is standing in their way. 

“A strategy is a way through a difficulty, an approach to overcoming an obstacle, a response to a challenge. If the challenge is not defined, it is difficult or impossible to assess the quality of the strategy. And, if you cannot assess that, you cannot reject a bad strategy or improve a good one.” – Richard Rumelt.  

Team Alignment  

Since team alignment is such a critical element in strategic planning, it is one of the central focuses of Refinery’s strategy program. Without team alignment, your strategic plan will not be properly executed, and it will not be adequately managed.   

To understand how to achieve team alignment, one must first understand it.  

What is Team Alignment in an Organizational Setting?   

Team Alignment is when a whole team aspires to achieve the same vision, understands the goals, and is made up of individuals who understand how to contribute their strengths.  

Team alignment creates numerous benefits, including:   

  • Increased efficiency to achieve goals
  • Improved communication
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved performance
  • Higher motivation and morale
  • Improved trust
  • Higher employee retention rates
  • Ability to make key decisions faster
  • Agility to adapt to a changing market  

Most teams fail because of internal dysfunction and distrust, which is why at Refinery, we don’t recommend the typical team building, “rah-rah” exercises that you might find with traditional training companies. Instead, we first assess your organization to understand what’s happening behind the scenes. Once we know what’s really going on, we give your team the insight and tools they need to work with each other.   

It is a simple fact that functional, trusting teams get real work done.  

How Refinery Helps Organizations Built Team Alignment  

In Refinery’s strategy program, our first module is a two-day module focused on how your team is functioning right now. Are there trust issues, psychological safety issues, communication blocks? Hard conversations may have to happen, but they are necessary to move forward. This phase is not just an observation period; we always ensure our teams have homework that must be completed so that the issues are recognized and addressed. Once team alignment is achieved, developing and executing a strategic plan is actually possible.  

“Before Refinery, we didn’t have a plan on how to deliver development for our people and didn’t realize many of the things that we needed to improve upon. They created a plan and outlined the building blocks of how they were going to help us improve our entire organization.” – Robert Delage, British Columbia Milk Marketing Board.  

Our second and third modules then focus on our four-step strategic planning process of Define, Diagnose, Leverage and Act, where we guide your team through activities and conversations that define their desired future state as an organization as well as their current state and diagnose the barriers that are standing in their way of their desired future state. We then get granular about prioritizing the most impactful opportunities and encourage the team to debate their positions on these opportunities. The last step is working on the action plans that define accountabilities for the priority opportunities and define timelines and impact on the organization’s future.  

Make no mistake; this is no easy process. There is hard work involved in getting teams to narrow their focus to the most important opportunities and to be blatantly honest about what is standing in their way of success. But in the end, the strategic plan is something that the team can rally around and support because they put rational thought into examining their current and future condition—not only as a business but as a team.  

“(Refinery) led us through a structured strategic planning program that allowed our new team to look ahead at what’s possible for our company while focusing inward on building trust, cadence, and structure. Still tonnes of work to do, but they gave us the tools to give us a fighting chance.”—VP of Corporate Development and Strategy, Global E-Commerce Company.  

As leadership development consultants, Refinery has seen the challenges around organizational team alignment, and we understand from decades of experience that it is critical to the success of all organizational objectives and strategies. This is the reason Refinery offers Team Alignment as a stand-alone service and why our strategy development always starts with a full review of an organization’s team environment before we begin strategic planning.  

To learn more about Refinery’s Strategy Services, click here.   

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