Kickstarting your Strategic Planning Process

May 21, 2019

Kickstarting your Strategic Planning Process

It has been months since I’ve published a blog post, and I’m embarrassed. I have tons of thoughts on great blog posts – I even type out ideas on a digital notepad –  but at the end of the day, my not-so-urgent task of “Write a blog post” undoubtedly gets shoved to tomorrow’s list…for four months.  Yikes!

When I find myself procrastinating on the bottom list items – I try to identify the cause of the delay and determine a kickstart that will put me back on track. Kickstarts are simple and powerful.  One simple step in the right direction can propel you forward to another change, and another, and another.  In James Clear’s best selling book, “Atomic Habits,” he proposes how to make small changes that will transform your habits and deliver amazing results.  Want to get in shape?  Lay out your gym clothes on your bed the night before.  Or, throw away all your junk food in the kitchen.

Last month, I had the opportunity to speak with a group of physicians and I posed the same question:  “What’s a kick start that you can make today, that can create a bigger change tomorrow?”  A participant humorously answered:  “I need to change my lawn mower blade….I haven’t cut the grass in three months!” Kickstarts are so simple and obvious and emphasize the importance of taking one small step forward, instead of being overwhelmed by the vastness of how large a project / task can be.

Here’s an example of another famous bottom list item, keeping up with my accounting:

  • Example:  Putting off accounting / Quick Books entries from January to April 2019.
  • Cause of the delay #1: Feeling overwhelmed by the number of entries I would need to make – and that feeling of being behind only grew worse and worse each month
  • Cause of the delay #2:  Not being familiar with Quickbooks as a program and not sure I was using it right
  • Kickstart to get back on track:  Purchased and downloaded the digital Quickbooks program
  • Another kickstart:  Scheduled time to meet with a bookkeeper, who gave me a quick overview on how to use Quickbooks
  • Outcome: I caught up with my accounting within 2 weeks of my kickstarts, and now am on schedule to keep it up-t0-date every month.

How can we apply the idea of kickstarts to a topic that most organizations dread or altogether avoid – strategic planning?  I recently collaborated with a non-profit group to implement a couple of kickstarts that would lead to successful strategic planning:

  • Example:  The organization did not consistently implement a strategic planning process – they started one years ago but never finished it.
  • Cause of the delay #1: The CEO felt that teams were too busy already – how could she find the time to even get the team leads together to begin the process?
  • Cause of the delay #2:  The CEO also felt that past processes were worthless: it took months to create plans and goals that were set aside and forgotten.
  • Kickstart to get back on track:  The first baby step we took together was to identify who was crucial to the process and set a date on the calendar for the strategic planning retreat. The date was set 6 weeks out, but this was perfect as it gave us time to work through all the pre-work needed before the strategic retreat.
  • Another kickstart:  I also created a monthly overview of how goals and progress would be tracked, so that teams would be held accountable for their progress [see table below for reference].
  • Outcome: Within 2 months, we were able to set strategic plans and organizational annual goals, with much input and investment from the strategic retreat team members.  Within 3 months, we developed individual goals for all full-time employees.

What’s on the bottom of your to-do list?  Have you found an effective way to not ignore those items? I’d love to hear about any kick starts that you’ve effectively used at work or in your lives!  The more simple, the better.


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