Strategic Planning the Spark Way: How to Keep Your Plan Alive and Thriving

Alyssa Gasca

Recently, we met with a new client’s senior leadership team to help them create their annual strategic plan. Once we started talking, it was clear there were some doubts among some team members about the usefulness of a strategic plan. One leader expressed his concerns this way: “How do we know this time will be different? Our team makes a strategic plan every year, and it just sits in a drawer!”

Strategic planning is like the GPS for your business; it helps chart the course and set the direction for the future. 

However, we’ve heard from leadership teams over and over that their detailed strategic plans end up gathering dust as everyone continues doing business as usual.

After many years of facilitating strategic planning and learning the difference between teams that execute against their plans, and those that don’t, we have created and refined a process that produces plans that teams can actually accomplish – and that don’t collect dust in a drawer.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into some practical tips and insights we use at Spark to ensure your strategic planning efforts are effective.

Start with a Clear Vision

As the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” A strategic plan should begin with a clear and compelling vision. Your vision is the north star that guides your organization, aligning all your efforts towards a common goal. Without a crystal-clear vision, your strategic plan is likely to lack direction and purpose, making it more likely to end up in that fateful drawer. 

We begin our strategic planning sessions by getting clear on the vision for your business. Until you know where you want to go, you can’t figure out how to get there.

Keep It Simple

One of the key principles of strategic planning is the importance of simplicity. A complex, overly-detailed plan is more likely to be overwhelming and difficult to execute. To keep your strategic plan alive and thriving, make it straightforward and easy to understand. Ensure that everyone in your organization, from top to bottom, can grasp the plan and their role in it. You’re better off having fewer objectives that are important, clear, and that everyone is aligned around.

Share Your Plan

Your strategic plan is not meant to be a secret document reserved for the highest echelons of management. For your plan to be effective, it must be shared, and communicated regularly, at all levels of your organization.

Share the vision and the high-level strategic goals with everyone, and ask managers to discuss individually with employees in 1:1s so every employee can see a line of sight from their individual goals to the bigger picture. When every team member knows their role in achieving the strategic plan, it’s more likely to stay alive and relevant, and everyone works together to move in one direction.

Create a Culture of Accountability

Gino Wickman, the author of Traction, offers this adage: “Vision without traction is hallucination.” Having a grand vision is insufficient. Without the ‘traction’ – the actionable steps and accountability to bring that vision to life – your plan is just a dream.

To prevent your plan from collecting dust, create a culture of accountability within your organization. Each team and individual should have their performance tied to specific goals and metrics from the strategic plan. Regularly track progress and hold people accountable for their commitments. When everyone has a stake in the success of the plan, it’s less likely to be forgotten. If you’re software-curious, we recommend Bloom Growth for holding your team accountable to your strategic plan and key goals.  

Regularly Review and Adjust

Detours and roadblocks are inevitable in business. To ensure your strategic plan remains on track, schedule regular reviews. These reviews should be a time to assess what’s working, what’s not, and make adjustments. By staying flexible and responsive to changing conditions, your plan can adapt and stay relevant. At Spark, we recommend quarterly half-day strategic planning sessions to review your progress and adjust the plan accordingly.  90 days is enough time to accomplish and celebrate milestones towards annual goals, but frequent enough to course correct if needed.  Quarterly reviews remind everyone of the big picture and often re-energize and align the team.

Strategic planning doesn’t have to be an exercise in futility. By starting with a clear vision, keeping it simple, sharing the plan throughout your organization, creating a culture of accountability, and regularly reviewing and adjusting, you can keep your strategic plan alive and thriving.

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