My eldest daughter, Sofia, is a very inquisitive child and struggles to grasp the concept of, “What does mom do all day?” She knows that I have many phone calls and meetings and pressed me last week to understand what I’m actually doing:
Sofia: “What are your phone calls and meetings about?”
Me: “I’m helping schools and other groups figure out what they’re doing…you know, strategic planning and that kind of stuff.”
[insert long pause]
“I don’t know what that means, Mom.”
And honestly, people have many different definitions and perspectives around strategic planning, that I thought it’d be beneficial to explain my history and definition of strategic planning.
Strategic Planning: A Lesson Learned
In 2008, I started my first post-MBA job in brand management at Unilever. For several years, I had the opportunity to learn all about armpits and deodorant as part of the Degree team. I learned so much from that position and used to joke that “Everything I learned in life, I learned from deodorant” – and that includes learning about strategic planning.
Soon after I started my role, my manager asked me to create a strategic plan to launch a deodorant innovation. My first pass was terrible. I created a couple of slides with some pictures of how we could incorporate the new product into our existing line – slides that I could use into a larger strategic planning presentation later – but I totally missed the mark.
“This is terrible.” My manager didn’t try to sugar coat it.
“I need a strategy: tell me a story. Why is this innovation important? What’s the context of this product with our competition? How can we get our fair share of the market? What are the 4Ps? What are our revenue goals, timeline and how we’ll get there in store? What teams need to be involved, and how can we surround our consumer with our message?”
As hard as it was to hear that brutally honest feedback, creating that first strategic plan cemented my understanding of a strategic plan, which has held true in both the corporate and education/non-profit realms:
- A strategic plan defines an organization’s overall direction, both in the near- and long-term
- A strategic plan involves team members setting priorities and measurable goals, and creating plans with milestones on how to achieve those goals
- A strategic plan organizes resources, including people/staffing, money and where to spend time. Some tools included in a strategic plan are:
- SWOT/Landscape analysis
- Decision rights
- 5-year SMART goals and annual scorecards
- Org chart
- 5-year financial plan
- Finally, a strategic plan involves communicating and aligning team members on how to execute the plan.
Strategic Planning: LAN Case Study
I’ve often raved about the Leadership Academy Network in Fort Worth, TX, and I’m excited to share our 5-year Strategic Plan Case Study. This case study provides background to our work, our approach to strategic planning and our results.
Empower for Good + LAN: Case Study, 5-year Strategic Plan
Many of the tools mentioned in the case study are available as templates or anonymized resources – please reach out if you’d like access to these resources. And also, reach out with your own stories and lessons learned about strategic planning!