2024 Strategic Planning: The Non-Negotiables for the New Year
With the holidays right around the corner and the new year approaching, one common question we receive at Elate is ‘Should we have our entire strategic plan finalized by the end of the year?’
It’s a valid question that varies from company to company, but it's also a loaded one that warrants careful consideration.
One of the biggest disconnects we see across companies is the misalignment between the operating plan (revenue targets, gross margin, budgets, etc) and the strategy itself.
While the operating plan is relatively inflexible, (it is what it is for better or worse) the strategy needed to execute upon that plan is what should be viewed as dynamic.
Many organizations tend to conflate the two and think of the operating plan and strategic plan as the same.
And while they are undoubtedly intertwined (with the strategy serving as the means for how we reach our goals as a company), it’s essential to recognize that they should not be considered rigidly set in stone.
At Elate, we firmly believe in the idea of setting annual Themes. Some organizations might call these Pillars, but think of them as your company’s annual rallying cries, setting the direction for the company and bridging where we want to go with how we get there. (we dove into Themes in edition 2)
These Themes are often set annually in our Strategic Planning offsites, and they should have direct alignment with our operating plan.
Whether they're revenue targets, product direction, or fundraising efforts, Themes are how we convey our operating plan in a way that resonates with employees and is intuitive in helping them discern how their priorities align with the direction of the organization.
If we revisit the initial question, 'Should we have our entire strategic plan finalized by the end of the year?’, the answer is that our operating plan (metrics) and themes should be finely tuned and finalized by then, ready to be shared at our company kickoff.
It's crucial to note that the strategy should never be finalized or set in stone. The operating plan and fiscal goals should be locked in, but the strategy should remain dynamic, proactively adjusted to the opportunities or challenges facing your company.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Well, obviously we need to adjust throughout the year! I just need to know what needs to be in place to kick off the year.”
If that’s you, then I would say you’re ahead of the curve! Simply acknowledging that the strategy is a living, breathing entity is crucial to success.
So if you’re approaching this with the mindset that the strategy will adjust, then here you go...
The 3 strategic components you should have in place when kicking off the new year
1. Your 2024 Operating Plan
Set your fiscal targets, revenue goals, budget, as well as supporting measures relevant to your industry.
2. Your 2024 Annual Themes
Usually 3-5 areas of focus that serve as the annual rallying cries or true north for where your organization wants to go and how you get there.
3. Your 2024 Annual Objectives for Leadership (with Q1 specific Objectives for Departments with Managers as extra credit 🍎)
You can’t roll into the new year without having clear deliverables on what is critical to success in Q1 for your C-Suite, VPs, and Directors. The true depth will depend on the company and size, but individual contributors need to be able to clearly articulate what their team is seeking to accomplish, how those objectives contribute to the company’s direction, and how those Objectives are connected to the success of other departments.
If you choose not to set individual level objectives before the start of the year, that is okay. We just recommend communicating the strategy early in the new year, and providing a clear path to individuals finalizing their Objectives with managers by a set point in time (midway through the first month of the quarter, ideally).
So there you have it. I wanted to keep this as simple and intuitive as possible.
Within your strategy you need to illustrate what success looks like in 2024, how departments and teams are connected to that success, and provide a unified view that empowers employees to easily set clear priorities to align with that direction.
New Elation Nation Video 📽️
One of the things we talk about a lot is the community of Strategy and Operations Leaders we hope to build through Elate. You might hear us refer to it as Elation Nation, and while I have to give all the credit on the playful name to my co-founder, Abby, it's been incredible to watch this community take off.
Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with a few of these leaders to hear about their journey rolling out Elate at their organizations, and the way it has helped instill an operating framework and rhythm.
Recap of Top 5 Aspiring Ops episodes of all time 🎉
Over the past 2 months we've (slowly) unveiled the most popular Aspiring Ops episodes to date. It's been fun to revisit these episodes and reflect on the path we've traveled and the community we've helped build along the way.
I'm not going to recap them all here, but here is the link that includes recaps, snippets, and links to listen via Apple and Spotify.
Thanks for following along.
A few strategic planning resources you might be interested in 📚
- Strategic Planning 101 Hub - Links and downloadable content re: strat planning
- Strategic Planning & Execution Playbook - tips on strat planning, objective building, and more.
- Dynamic Planning 101 - I've discussed in previous editions, but the traditional way of strategic planning is broken. Dynamic Planning is our philosophy at Elate, and you can learn more about it here.
Thanks all for today. Hope you're having a great week.