Strategic Planning

5 strategies for winning in 2017

Everybody wants to win, and that includes people and organizations. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I want to do a terrible job at work today!” But these days, it often seems like people aren’t making progress on the right goals—even though they’re showing up to work and working hard.

If you’re ready to step up your game and win in 2017, here’s how to get started.

1. Get your organization focused on winning.

If you haven’t already done it, take the time to identify what winning looks like for your organization. Paint a clear picture of your destination, and leave little room for interpretation.

Once you’ve articulated your definition of winning, keep your organization focused on it by constantly communicating your goals. Have a written plan for how often and how many ways you communicate with your employees.

You will know your message is getting through when every employee can answer these questions:

• What are my top priorities?
• What are the three primary objectives I need to achieve this week/quarter/year?
• How will I know whether I have been successful after working hard this week/month/quarter?
• How will we know when we have won as a team and as an organization?

2. Clean your plate.

In addition to articulating what you will do, it’s important to identify what you will not do. To that end, I recommend an activity called “Clean your plate.” It works like this:

• Gather your team.
• Review all major ongoing projects and initiatives currently on your organization’s plate.
• Determine which ones should stay and which ones should go.
• Rank each initiative according to its strategic value and its linkage to your core strategies. (Download this worksheet <link to Strategic Values grid> to help with this process.)
• Based on this ranking, decide which projects and initiatives are most crucial to “winning,” and jettison the rest.

You can use this same basic approach with all of your processes and ways of working.

These days, most organizations have an abundance of ideas and opportunities to pursue, which can make it difficult to decide what to stop doing. This exercise ensures that your limited resources get allocated to the highest-value activities and forces you to refocus on the right things.

3. Have a Plan B (and C, D and E)

If you thought 2016 was a chaotic and uncertain year for business, hold onto your hat. Next year promises to be faster and even more chaotic. There is nothing that indicates things will slow down in any driving sector.

To prepare, you should “pre-think” your contingency plans in case a significant unexpected event, new regulation or competitor takes your strategic plan off track.

As much as possible, identify the circumstances or events that could threaten your plan and build in alternate courses of action so that you can respond quickly. Then review your plan on a quarterly basis (at minimum) so you can identify deviations before it’s too late to course correct.

4. Look closely at your accepted beliefs.

In times of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to question what you think you know about your business and industry. Customer needs can change overnight, and unless you regularly examine how you do business, customers can leave you behind in a flash.

To stay current with what customers want and need from your business, conduct an “assumption inventory” at least once a quarter. Increase this frequency if your industry is undergoing profound change. Gather your management team and ask questions like:

• What has changed with our customers, markets and industry in the last three months?
• What assumptions are we making simply because we know them to be true?
• What ways of working are we holding on to because we’ve always done it this way?
• What ideas for new products or services have we developed and not implemented because “that will never work?”
• What has changed that might make them feasible now?

5. Push for strategic agility.

Strategic agility—the ability to move fast with flexibility and focus—starts with automatically assuming that your market is constantly changing (it is!) and monitoring it on a regular basis.

Ask yourself questions like:

• What changes in the market might alter or undermine our strategy?
• Is our strategy working as expected?
• Are we executing correctly? If not, what do we need to refine or change in order to get back on track?

Once you determine the necessary course corrections, take action! If you fall behind due to uncertainty or hesitation, you could spend the rest of the year struggling to catch up.

To develop strategic agility over the long term, always maintain a clear definition of what winning looks like for your organization. When unforeseen events force a change in course, communicate how and why you will still win. Teach people at all levels to think strategically; encourage them to keep one eye on the future as they go about their daily work.

In addition, “unlearn” what made you successful in the past but no longer applies to today’s reality. Then leverage data to learn new and better ways of adding value to your customers. Finally, give ongoing performance feedback so employees know whether they’re supporting the organization’s goals and how to their performance accordingly.

So what’s it going to be in 2017? Are you going to play to win—or work just as hard and settle for playing not to lose?

Read more on this topic: 10 ways to budget for agility in 2017

Category: Strategic Planning


About the Author: Holly Green

Holly is CEO of THE HUMAN FACTOR Inc., and guides leaders and their organizations in achieving greater success by teaching you to leverage your brain and the brains of others at work.An experienced bu…

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