The Importance of Reflection in Strategic Planning
December 1, 2023
The Importance of Reflection in Strategic Planning

As Strategy and Operations Leaders, we spend countless hours working across teams building the plan, tracking delivery of key initiatives, and reporting on the operating metrics deemed critical to the business. Yet year after year, one of the most surprising things we hear about with Strategic Planning is the lack of reflection on the execution of the plan itself.

For all that time spent building, tracking, and reporting, you’d think there would be an equal amount of time paid towards reflecting on how we did. 💁

Yet, the amount of organizations that do not have defined rituals for closing out and providing context to whether an Objective was successful or not never ceases to amaze me.

At Elate, one of the things we encourage every company to do before you even roll out your Strategic Plan is establish the operating rhythm for how you update, review, and take action on your plan. What we’ve seen is that the mutually agreed upon rituals - established at the Leadership level and communicated to the organization - build the necessary muscle to ensure a Strategic Plan doesn’t sit on the shelf collecting dust.

However, the operating rhythm can’t just entail Objectives in flight. These rituals need to outline when we close our Objectives and how we do so in a way that provides visibility into what went well and what didn’t.

Not only will this provide perspective on how we delivered on key initiatives from the past quarter, but it will also provide valuable insight into how we continue elevating the way we build our strategy in the first place.

As an example, we want to be able to create a strategic plan with conviction, with a firm idea on the percentage of Objectives we typically deliver on successfully as a business. We recommend that companies aim for 80%+ Objective Success.


Well, if we can build a plan with confidence, knowing that four out of five Objectives will be successful, then it gives us the conviction needed to ensure that our strategy leads to execution of our Operating Plan.

We specifically recommend aiming for 80%, rather than 100%. When teams focus on 100%, it tends to lead to setting more easily attainable goals, rather than challenging goals that really move the needle. Additionally, if you aim for 100%, the focus becomes too fixated on achieving every single goal come hell or high-water. This oftentimes can lead to missing out on opportunities that surface along the way, which could end up leading to bigger outcomes for your organization.

For context, most companies we work with are delivering on less than 45% of their Objectives before leveraging Elate. This might sound low, but the reality is that there are a few contributing factors.

First, most companies fail to reflect back on their previous quarters, identify the reasons for success of their Objectives, and apply those learnings to future quarters.

Whether it is because there were too many Objectives set in the first place or the assumptions that were modeled into the Objectives weren’t based on historical data, the truth is that most companies can’t tell why they underperformed in a given quarter because they aren’t doing retrospectives.

So knowing that closing out and reflecting on your Strategic Plan is critical to ongoing success, what does that mean for your company?

Let me tell you.

If you've already carved out time dedicated to reviewing this quarter’s Objectives and the annual Themes set by your company, then you are ahead of the curve. If you haven't set time, there is still time to close out the year well.

While the end of the year is a bit different, we recommend that companies close out Objectives between two weeks prior to the end of the quarter and no later than one week following. This gives us a three week timeframe to accurately close out Objectives with context as to why it was successful or fell short.

We recommend that as Objectives are closed out, they are reviewed in the standing weekly or bi-weekly team meetings. However, one important ingredient to the recipe for building upon your Strategic Planning process is to do a reflection of the first three quarters of your company’s performance as you go about setting your plan for the following year.

This will help provide perspective on the percentage of attainment across the organization in reaching your Objectives.

Remember, while we recommend aiming for 80% success, the reality is that this won’t happen overnight. But by tracking the success of your plan quarter over quarter, you will start to identify trends. From the right number of Objectives to own by department, team and individual, to the way you build in percentage increases in things like revenue targets or other goals, you will find that the review process of past performance sets the stage for the future strategy.

So with a month left to go in the year, take the time to communicate to the rest of your team that closing out Objectives should be something top of mind. While we recommend starting two weeks before the end of the year, you don’t have to wait if you’ve already delivered one of your Objectives. You can always close them out earlier.

And don’t forget to celebrate these Objectives. 🎉

Obviously, it’s easy to celebrate the wins and what went well. But don’t lose sight of the valuable learnings that come from those that fall a bit short. If you build this rhythm of review into your company’s planning, then folks will be much more apt to be okay falling a bit short, if we know why we did and what we can do about it.

In our second most popular Aspiring Ops episode Creating an Environment for Talent to Thrive, Dr. Bill Murphy nailed it on the head when he said, "It can't always be about hitting that goal... it's about what having that goal makes you do."

Listen to the full clip below.

For those companies that have already set your strategy for 2024 and Q1 Objectives, then it might be worth leveraging the findings from how this quarter ends to potentially make any final adjustments needed to your 2024 Plan.

Again, it’s not about saying "look at all of these amazing things we want to do next quarter!" It’s about the conviction that you’re building a plan that can be delivered upon and aligns with your operating plan for the coming year.

Hope this was helpful.

New Elation Nation Video 📽️

I'm delighted to share another Elation Nation video, this one featuring Megan Longo, Chief of Staff at Buildertrend.

Megan highlights Advanced Reporting and shares how she has been able to save hours of time by automating leadership roll-up reports, providing her executives with top headlines, status updates, and OKRs from each team every week.

Megan credits Elate as her right-hand tool and system of record that has enabled Buildertrend to feel confident today about strategic planning. I hope you enjoy!

A few resources you might be interested in 📚

That's all for today. Hope you're having a great week.