While we know that Noah’s Ark wasn’t built in day, we are told Noah had 120 years to plan and strategize before the “flood” to construct an ark. It would be nice to have 120 years to build our strategic plan and to know what obstacles and challenges we will face, but we know the reality of the ever evolving financial world.
I know many financial advisors hold bi-annual or annual strategic planning sessions and year after year follow the same boring format without a true understanding of what strategic planning should be.
As many of you are reviewing year end reports and developing strategies for the new year, implement effective strategic planning sessions throughout the year to achieve the goals you envision for years ahead.
While I believe it is a healthy practice to schedule group strategic sessions, I do believe that firms are failing to carry out the strategies and tactical implementation processes discussed during these meetings. Strategic planning should be evaluated throughout the year by measuring results to identify successes, uncovering gaps in a plan and hunting for improvement opportunities on a regular schedule.
What Is Strategic Planning
Strategic Planning should strive to answer fundamental questions:
- Where do we want to be one year from now, five years from now, ten years from now?
- Who is our ideal client?
- What are our major goals?
- What is our vision?
- What is our mission?
Your strategic planning meeting will entail forward thinking to visualize where you see your firm in the future. Review and create modifications to your vision statement in alignment with the goals of your firm five or ten years from today.
Creativity and brainstorming are essential to the quality and outcome of your meeting. Each team member should feel free to share new ideas without criticism but through inspiration. A true leader will inspire and enlighten team members to engage in discussion while feeling a sense of contribution to the overall success of the firm. When your team truly believes in the vision of the firm and contributes valuable ideas that are recognized, you will increase employee engagement, productivity and cultivate a positive culture in your firm.
Incorporate Tactical Plans Into Daily Operations
Once the strategic planning session has ended, dissect your plan by incorporating sub-headings or smaller tactical plans into your daily operations by:
- Assign specific actions to team members
- Create or update SOPs
- Design a time-line or flow-chart for each strategy including specific tactical steps to ensure the goal is measurable and attainable
- Schedule mini-meetings to measure results of a specific task
- Share progress and results with the entire team through weekly meetings or by creating a visual blueprint in your conference room
Reviewing Your Strategic Plan
By incorporating your strategic plan into your daily operations, you will have accomplished a major milestone that many firms fall short. However, to be effective and achieve results, your strategic plan needs a time-line or flow-chart of its own. Group collaboration will be effective once or twice a year, but only if the strategic plan is tested and measured year round. Review key fundamentals in your strategic plan by:
- Assign team members to each key issue in your strategy plan
- Create time-lines and flow-charts for each fundamental, including review, research and testing times, success measurement and gap identification
- Apply problem-solving techniques and offer pliable solutions
- Identify new trends
- Prepare detailed reports reflecting your findings
When team members become involved in the fundamental goals of the firm, productivity, engagement, employee retention, accountability and professionalism increase. Often, the team is excluded from strategic planning year round, leaving them with an overwhelmed and confused feeling after a long strategic session. Team involvement to reach vital goals year round will result in highly efficient and successful strategic planning sessions.
Following the guidelines above will ensure your “ark” is able to withstand the flood rather than sink.
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