By Karl Johns
Change is the only constant. Adapting to change has become the single most important attribute for organizations as they jockey for competitive advantage in the modern age. How can organizations adapt to change strategically? The answer is a regular strategic planning process coupled with a “living” strategic roadmap.
How Often Should You Undertake Your Strategic Planning Process?
Traditionally, organizations undertake their strategic planning and roadmapping process on an annual basis. More progressive organizations may do this bi-annually; fewer still undertake a quarterly review. However, in today’s ever-changing digital world this isn’t always enough. The speed and rate of change occurring means that the traditional cadence of strategic planning may be too infrequent to make a difference.
Organizations must establish a different “drumbeat” into their planning culture; one which adopts a more frequent assessment of what is happening in their environment. Identifying and analyzing the impact of business and industry changes on your strategy is critical to shortening the time to take action and make a difference.
What is a Good Strategic Planning “Drumbeat”?
A strategic planning drumbeat will always differ from organization to organization. Its frequency may increase or decrease depending on the level and rate of change of the business environment at any one point in time. Understanding and adapting your strategy to this change means that you will need to adopt an elastic approach, continually increasing and decreasing the frequency of review to accommodate the rate of change facing your business environment.
As a general rule of thumb, you should undertake a strategic planning drumbeat every 3-4 months. Doing this gives you the ability to become nimbler, adjusting to only those important changes that will have immediate impact. This means that you can react tactically, while still remaining aligned to your strategic goals.
It is important, however, that you do not lock yourself into a drumbeat that has no meaning. Your cadence is directly related to the rate and nature of change in which your organization exists. Don’t be afraid to increase or decrease the frequency as needed.
What is a Strategic Planning Drumbeat Sprint?
To create focus, we recommend taking a timeboxed or sprint-based approach when executing your strategic planning drumbeat. Typically, a drumbeat sprint would run over 3-4 days, or 5 at the most. During this time, assess your macro challenges, objectives and capabilities in light of the change occurring within your industry. Work through the following steps to assess:
Do the same challenges need solving, or are there different ones given the change that is occurring (or has occurred)?
Are your objectives still relevant and fit for purpose? If met, will they resolve your new challenges?
Has your capability been impacted by the change? What capability change is now required, and should you continue to focus on the same capabilities?
Will your actions and initiatives continue to deliver the outcomes required to achieve your objectives?
Are you still investing in the right things? Does the priority need to change, and what will be the impact on the roadmap?
During your sprint, engage with your stakeholders and teams as much as you can. Encourage them to help you identify what’s not going to work and the constraints. Creating this level of engagement will ensure that you continue to create transparency between your strategy and what you are executing to achieve your goals. At the end of your sprint, create an opportunity to showcase the changes to your roadmap and its impacts on the organization.
The Importance of Your Annual Strategy Review
It is important to note that while regular sprints are good, taking an annual view of your strategy has incredible merit. This provides a learning opportunity that should consider:
The impact of change forced on the organization and its impact on your strategic roadmap
The ability of the organization to execute the roadmap
The pace at which the organization can absorb and leverage the capability change
The successfulness of the strategic initiatives achieving their strategic objectives
The Ultimate Benefit of a Strategic Planning Cadence
Irrespective of how often you undertake strategic planning, one of the most important things regular planning provides is visibility and an opportunity for discussion. Creating this common understanding and facilitating debate is crucial to ensuring that your strategic roadmap is right for the current environment. That is, one that will enable future success in your industry.
“Strategic cadence creates a vision for the future with its stakeholders through repetitive action in the present. It unifies the stakeholders, builds confidence and trust and energizes the participants.”
We all understand the importance of strategic planning and having a strategic roadmap. What is even more crucial is that this practice must be a living exercise, a constant rhythmic drumbeat which is infused into the meetings and activities of your organization.