Does this sound familiar - You and your management team went away for a week to plan your company’s long-term strategy. When you returned, the excitement carried over. But as the days went on, you and your team got stuck more and more in the weeds and became less focused on the big picture. You are now halfway through your planning horizon, and you think you have a general idea of how you’re doing in relation to your strategy. But do you really? Just like hitting the refresh button in your browser to see the updated information, sometimes it is necessary to hit the refresh on your strategy.
If you are no longer completely confident in your strategic plan’s progress, don’t fear! You don’t need to ditch the plan, start from scratch and develop a new plan. You can and should regularly hit refresh on your strategy instead. As a best practice, try doing this at least once a year until it's time to develop your next full strategy plan.
Strategy Refresh Sessions
A strategy refresh session is different from strategy development sessions. Your strategy development process may have been top down, with limited input from people outside the executive level. The development of the strategic plan also starts with a review of mission and vision, and leads to the development of plans, actions and tactics to achieve the plan. In other words, it is a top down process.
A strategy refresh by design should be just the opposite. It needs to be bottom up, including a large group of strategic doers who start by reviewing how their plans and actions work towards the accomplishment of the strategic goals. The work should build up to and conclude at the highest levels of the plan – the Vision, Critical Success Factors and Key Performance Indicators.
The following are my recommendations on how to successfully do a strategy refresh:
Preparing for a Strategy Refresh
- Before you hold strategy refresh sessions you should: Communicate with the team that will be involved in these sessions early and often. This way they can look at the portions of the strategic plan they own and gather their thoughts, make updates, and come to the meetings prepared.
- Determine if there is any additional pre-work to be done for your organization.
- Identify the team that should be involved – leadership, the strategic doers and the owners of the plan in the different focus areas.
- Give the team an outline of when the meetings are scheduled. Have a meeting dedicated to discussing each major segment of your strategic plan – the broad focus areas of the Strategic Plan, the Critical Success Factors, the Key Performance Indicators, and the Vision and Values.
- Be clear with what you would like the outcome of these sessions to be. You can come up with questions to ask in each session ahead of time to keep the team on track.
- You may want to hold a pre-meeting or two with your organization’s leadership team. See if there are any pain points or topics that absolutely need to be addressed during these sessions.
- Hold the sessions in an environment conducive to working as a team. This space should have whiteboards or easels with large paper pads so you can write ideas quickly. In our recent strategy refresh, we had a whiteboard up with our Critical Success Factors as a reminder for everyone participating.
- Identify how you will capture the discussions and action items. Determine how you will make adjustments to your Strategic Plan if there are updates to be made. You may want to assign a team member who will be responsible for this.
Running Strategy Refresh Sessions
Ask the team if each of their plans and actions still make sense and are contributing to the strategic goals. Do tasks need to be updated, deleted or extended? Does it still align with your strategy and your vision? If the answer is no, you know you’ll need to remove the item from the plan or adjust it to fit.
Once you’ve gone through the lower level details of the plan, you move on to reviewing the Key Performance Indicators, Critical Success Factors and the Vision and Values. If it makes sense for your organization, you can include a session to tie the updated plan back to a financial model.
What to do Next?
Coming out of these sessions, there should be documentation on what the changes to the plan are, a list of actions (there will be actions and takeaways), and if there are any follow up meetings needed. From there, you can adjust your strategic plan as discussed. One of the most significant pieces to remember is communication flow down to all associates. It is important that associates are able to see how their position fits into the company’s overall strategy; therefore, it is important to communicate how the strategic plan may be shifting.
This is all possible to do with any method you’ve chosen to document strategic plan, but I recommend using a strategic execution software, such as MPOWR Envision, where you are able to be nimble and agile with your updates. This tool also makes it seamless to be transparent sharing your strategic plan, and any updates made to it.
So, if it’s been a while since that strategic planning retreat, you may want to determine if it’s time to hit refresh on your strategic plan to help focus and re-align your organization.