What You’ll Learn in This Guide:
Our team gets asked all the time for our thoughts on the ‘Strategic Planning Process’ with questions like:
What does an effective strategic planning process look like?
When should companies implement strategic planning?
How do you run the planning process from start to finish?
And we’ve hesitated to put an all-encompassing guide together because we don’t view it as a journey from point A to Z. Instead, we view Strategic Planning as a dynamic, ever-changing process that evolves to meet the stage and needs of a company. Additionally, Strategic Planning looks different for every company, with things like size, growth rate, and even industry playing a factor.
However, what we’ve found is that there are basic principles that apply to most high growth organizations. So our team has finally put together the Strategic Planning Guide for Today’s Leaders to help you navigate your company’s Strategic Planning process.
No matter where you are in your Strategic Planning journey, this guide was built to provide strategy and operations leaders with the direction, advice, and guidance needed to continue scaling your company.
Step 1 - Strategic Vision Session
Starting Your Strategic Planning Journey
When it comes to starting or even restarting your company’s Strategic Planning journey, you might be tempted to jump right into building out your plan. For many strategy and operations leaders, the natural tendency might be to start, well, strategizing and operating. However, we’d argue that by jumping right into the process, you’re missing one of the most important parts of Strategic Planning, defining the Strategic Vision.
As we’ve shared, Strategic Planning is the process of building a cohesive plan that brings together the vision of founders or leaders with the execution needed across every layer of the business. And before execution, comes direction.
Your Strategic Vision meeting should serve as either confirmation of the company’s Vision and Mission Statement or as an opportunity to set what those Vision and Mission Statements are for the company. Unlike a Strategic Planning session where you focus on proposing, reviewing, and finalizing annual or quarterly goals, this session should be even more forward-looking.
While some might believe this is a session only for founders, we’d encourage later stage companies to revisit this type of conversation with other leaders at the company.
In setting or revising these 3, 5, and 10-year Vision Statements for the company, founders and other leaders can bring together a long-term vision coupled with helpful perspectives on your market and the learnings seen across different layers of the business.
Set or Reaffirm the Company Vision and Mission Statement
Clearly Define 3, 5 and 10-Year Outlook for the Company
🚨 Elate Pro Tip
These 3, 5 and 10-year outlooks should also come with key milestones that your team believes would lead to the overall Vision and Mission being achieved.
Encourage Strategic Thinking. Not the Calculated, Well-defined Path to Feasibility
The first thing we do is establish what our priorities are and our first principles... whether it's our core values and how we want to engage as a company, or just the ways that we want to handle our strategic initiatives. We get collective vision on that.
Step 2 - Annual Strategic Planning
The Building Blocks for Your Strategic Vision
Once we’ve set a clear Vision and Mission for our company, now comes the part where strategy and ops leaders shine. Figuring out, ‘How do we get there?’
The Annual Strategic Planning session is the process of connecting how the long-term vision for the company aligns with the execution and results that power your business. And as much as strategy and ops leaders might serve as the catalyst for helping to build and execute towards your plan, it can’t be done alone. For the Annual Strategic Planning session, it’s critical that you have all the key leaders involved and engaged.
To help ensure leadership is all on the same page and aligned on the big picture for the company, we recommend starting with company themes that will be prominent throughout the course of the year. Themes can often serve as a bridge between the long-term vision for the company and the quarterly goals. Some examples may include:
- Create a New Category of Strategic Planning Software by Launching the First Planning Feature for Chiefs of Staff
- Become the Market Leader in Strategic Planning Software for High-Growth Businesses
- Win with Customers by Delivering a World-Class Implementation Experience
So while Themes can be specific in what you’re looking to accomplish for the year, they won’t have the level of detail needed to ensure you are hitting the milestones and key results from quarter-to-quarter.
This is where the process of setting Quarterly Goals comes into play. Whether you use OKRs, EOS, 4DX, or another goal-setting framework, it’s important to set these objectives at a leadership level in a way that supports your Themes for the year.
After what can be several intense hours or even multiple days spent offsite setting your Themes and Quarterly Goals, you might have the urge to quickly agree upon the priorities for next year and wrap-up your session. However, one last item we always recommend is establishing the rhythm, cadence, and process for reviewing Objectives throughout the course of the year, as well as who owns driving accountability. This can change based on company stage and size, but each year the framework should be established and agreed upon by leadership.
Set Key Performance Metrics for the Year
Define Annual Company Themes
Begin the Process of Setting Q1 Objectives
🚨 Elate Pro Tip
On average, we see Leaders and/or Departments own three objectives at the leadership level. This may range from 1-5 Objectives, but more than 5 per leader/department takes away from ability to focus on priorities
Establish a Rhythm, Cadence, and Process for Reviewing Objectives throughout the Year
Who is the Plan Owner Driving Accountability?
🚨 Elate Pro Tip
We recommend designating a Plan Owner to increase the chance of your strategic plan being carried out. The Plan Owner is usually the person left with the CEO at the end of the meeting, helping to bring a Strategic Planning session to life.
We break down larger goals into product, execution, and operational goals that help you plan out and predict how you’re going to perform as a company.
Step 3 - Strategic Planning Rollout
Empowering Team Leaders and Managers with Your Strategic Planning
A Strategic Plan that only lives at the leadership level is a Strategic Plan that is bound to fail.
The process of setting a Strategic Plan isn’t just for leadership to define a set of KPIs and goals that fit within a spreadsheet or financial planning equation. Strategic Planning is a commitment from leadership to clearly define the long term goals of the company, while empowering employees to help shape the course of the company as you collectively build something special.
This is why it’s imperative that you engage with Team Leaders and Managers as you are building and rolling out your Strategic Plan. By empowering Team Leaders and Managers, you help arm them with the context and resources to bring along their team members in a way that can bring your Strategic Plan to life.
This knowledge of the greater context behind the Annual Strategic Planning session at the leadership level, helps Team Leaders and Managers communicate a clear purpose and align their Objectives with the Quarterly Goals and Annual Themes being set. Further, this allows them to begin conversations with team members with the understanding of what the company is setting out to achieve and how all team members are an important part of the journey.
Align Team Leaders and Managers on the Company Direction
Empower Team Leaders and Managers to Set Q1 Objectives
🚨 Elate Pro Tip
Team Leaders and Managers should own no more than 3 objectives.
Team Leads and Managers can begin discussing goals, budget, and hiring plans with Department Leaders, Finance, and Operations.
Team Leaders and Managers Start Communicating Q1 objectives with Team Members
The Plan Owner Should Work with Team Leaders and Managers Throughout the Approval Process
We have company goals, department goals, and individual goals... With that structure in place, if something needs to change at the company level, we know it will affect department and individual goals.
Step 4 - Annual Company Kickoff
Building Momentum Through Clarity
There may not be a more exciting time than an Annual Company Kickoff. From reliving the accomplishments of the past year to the opportunity ahead for the coming year, the Annual Company Kickoff can help create the initial momentum that sets any team up for a successful year.
So with all of the optimism for the new year and excitement of bringing your team members together, there isn’t a better opportunity to engage employees and continue building on the past year’s success.
The Annual Company Kickoff serves as an opportunity to reinforce your company’s Vision and Mission Statements, and unveil this year’s Strategic Plan. From your annual Themes and Q1 Objectives to the overall operating framework, the Annual Kickoff can establish collective buy-in across the organization.
So don’t let the opportunity to continue bringing your team members along on your company’s journey go to waste.
Reinforce Your Company’s Vision and Mission Statements
🚨 Elate Pro Tip
Themes can serve as a great segway between your long-term Vision and Quarterly Objectives
Set a Clear Definition of Success
🚨 Elate Pro Tip
It isn’t always metrics. Sometimes success comes from the trial and error that allows your company to learn quickly.
Communicate Your Company Operating Framework and Set Clear Expectations: How will we measure and review the most important priorities for our business?
Strategic Planning is the framework built by leadership to execute on your company’s vision and engage employees in a meaningful way.
We hold quarterly all hands meetings right after our quarterly leadership meeting and that allows us to make sure we are communicating decisions and goals that have been set to the entire team.
Step 5 - Operating Cadence
Executing Your Strategic Plan
Heading into your Strategic Planning, it’s important to remember that the process of how you execute your plan is just as important as the goals being set. The process you go through of proposing, reviewing, and finalizing your plan is critical for how you prioritize what matters most for your company. But the process of how you act and build upon those objectives is often overlooked.
In terms of Strategic planning, a lot of that success depends on the habits that you’ve built as a company.
Once you’ve had your annual kickoff meeting, the attention now turns to executing against your plan. As you established in your Annual Company Kickoff, there should be an agreed upon rhythm and cadence for how your company is communicating at all levels. And these shouldn’t be optional rhythms that are abandoned the moment scheduling becomes difficult or leaders start to bail.
In fact, it’s more important that leadership stays committed to an operating framework, because the moment leaders start seeing it as optional, your other employees will as well.
Again, your Strategic Planning Process should be thought of as a commitment to your company and employees, so establishing a clear, consistent cadence for following through can help ensure that commitment stays intact.
Reinforce Your Company’s Operating Framework as a Commitment to Employees and the Company
Establish Leadership Meetings to Review Objectives: Weekly or Bi-Weekly
Set Manager Meetings with Departments to Review Objectives: Weekly or Bi-Weekly
All-Hands Company Meetings to Review Objectives: Monthly or Quarterly
If there's something that's not serving us, we will change it...but just ignoring the operating system isn’t an option
Step 6 - The Evolution of Your Strategic Planning
Your Strategic Plan Should Evolve With You
As your company continues to grow and evolve, so should the structure you have in place for your Strategic Planning. Adding new leadership team members, additional rounds of funding, or even new geographic locations are just some of the countless changes that can drive a need to evolve your current Strategic Planning process.
However, we want you to know, that’s normal. It’s actually expected.
As a high growth company, change is inevitable. So while the way in which you go about Strategic Planning might change, the commitment to doing so should not. The evolution of your plan isn’t a reason to trash the plan or give leaders an excuse to stop.
This is where the commitment of the CEO and the Strategic Planning owner is critical.
What Works, What Doesn’t? Don’t be Afraid to Question Your Current Strategic Planning process
Ensure Continued Buy-In from CEO and Strategic Planning Owner
Expect Growth, Welcome Evolution
As an org grows and changes, your processes do, the way you think about goal setting and planning needs to change and evolve with you
Strategic Planning as a Competitive Edge
Are you interested in learning more about how today’s leading companies are leveraging their Strategic Planning process as a competitive edge? At Elate, we have the opportunity to work with some of the best strategy and operations leaders who see Strategic Planning as a catalyst for growth.
Unlike Strategic Planning of the past that was viewed as a static, outdated box that had to be checked by leadership, today’s leaders view planning as a dynamic, real-time process that can serve as a competitive advantage in how you scale.
Our team would love to spend some time understanding what Strategic Planning looks like for your company today, and how we can help take it to the next level. Reach out to a member of our team
, and we’ll be in touch today to schedule time to share how Elate can help make Strategic Planning a competitive edge.