This time of year, leaves are turning, kids are in school, and many business leaders are spending a great deal of time, energy, and resources creating a strategic plan for next year. Executives are gathering in meeting spaces or Zoom calls to work through discussions and decisions about the direction of their company and setting specific goals for 2023. When the decisions have been made, the flipcharts and laptops put away, what do you do with that plan?
In the past, it may have been enough to go back to the office, create a PowerPoint deck with the goals to share with the team in the next company Town Hall meeting, and get back to business as usual. Perhaps you'd occasionally refer back to those goals and aspirations for the year and follow up to see how the work is progressing. The best companies have a rhythm for doing this regularly. Some companies display the goals on a big scorecard or screen in the office to keep them top of mind.
In today's world, where hybrid and remote work are not going away anytime soon, where teams disperse across the globe, where the economic, political, and social disruptions make it difficult to see around corners and stick to the plan, where workers are disengaged or "quiet quitting" or quitting at higher rates than we've ever seen before, business leaders can't rely on business as usual when it comes to executing a strategic plan. Simply put, what worked before doesn't work anymore.
Today's leaders have a slew of challenges when implementing a strategic plan. Using technology can help bridge the gap between strategy and execution and ease some of the new challenges facing business leaders today.
Here are some key ways that technology can help you manage and track your strategy:
Results. Sometimes business goals can be ambiguous; a plan like "Increase revenue" seems straightforward at first glance. But consider this, are we successful if we increase revenue by $10 this year? Or are we aiming higher? Align the team around clear outcomes for success on each of your goals. Our Rhythm software helps you write better goals by requiring one accountable owner, due dates, and success criteria. Following our process will ensure you're clear on the results you set before you leave the planning session; nothing kills execution faster than confusion. If you're unsure of the expected outcomes, your team will certainly not know what to do to achieve them. Being specific about the results will help everyone think at the right level to achieve success.
Communication. It's not enough to share the slides. If your company is going to succeed with your strategic goals, you need your teams to buy in fully to your plan. It would be best if you had them bring their energy, creativity, resourcefulness, effort, and candor to the table. Getting each person in your company on board with the plan takes much more effort than presenting a slick slide deck. Start by listening to them and engaging them in the process before the executive team even meets for planning. You need mechanisms for the people in your organization closest to the customers and the workers to share what they are learning; what do those people think the company should start, stop, and keep doing? Gather this data before your planning session and use it to make decisions. In our Rhythm software, we have a simple Idea Board for team members to brainstorm Start Stop Keeps or other prep work to ensure executives have the best insights from the team.
When you communicate decisions after your planning session, let the team know why you decided to do one thing, not another. Offer opportunities for questions and concerns. Look for nonverbal cues that the team is resistant to your plans, and find out why. It would help if you had a high level of trust in these candid conversations, but they will improve your company. Show the team that their input matters and they will be more likely to engage in the process and put their best work into the plan. The executives who set the goals are rarely the people who do the work to make them happen; communicating with clarity, compassion, and candor when sharing the plan is perhaps the most crucial and first step toward aligned execution.
Alignment. Once you've persuasively communicated the plan, you'll need a way to visualize ongoing progress. It would be best if you had a way to see how each person's work connects to the company's strategic goals for the year. In Rhythm, we have a patented Energy Map screen to show at a high level how the goals in the company connect to the annual plan. This allows executives to have a clear line of sight of the energy and resources allocated to key initiatives and provides team members to see how their work contributes to the company's success. This is very powerful for motivation; today's workforce craves meaningful work and clear goals and expectations. Quickly seeing how daily work moves the company forward is a powerful antidote to feeling that your work is not worth the extra effort.
Once you can visualize the plan and how all the work fits together across different teams in the company, you also need to be transparent about progress. How is the work going? Are we on track? Do we need to adjust to achieve our goals? Our simple Red-Yellow-Green system in Rhythm provides a mechanism to alert the team when a goal is at risk. Identifying roadblocks early in the quarter or year allows time to adjust and get back on track.
Visibility. Once you've aligned around the results you want to achieve, communicate them effectively, and set up a system for sharing goals and measuring progress, you need a way to have this information at your fingertips when needed. This is where our Dashboards come in. You can quickly pull in all the goals you care about and see the Red-Yellow-Green status updates. You can easily click in to see the details, read the connected comments, and assign tasks on the goal if there's a problem. The ability to pinpoint where your time and attention are needed and communicate asynchronously with team members in the context of the specific goal will help you focus on the strategic plan every week, not just once a year. Imagine how that will accelerate your progress.
Check out our software solution if you are ready to take your strategic plan off the page and into reality. If you're not sure Rhythm is right for your team, check out our reviews on G2 to see what our customers have to say about the value of having a system to remain focused, aligned, and accountable for achieving success. Best of luck planning and executing for next year!
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