Far too much effort is spent perfecting the strategic plan and far too little effort simplifying its execution.
If you’ve been in “corporate America” more than a few years, you’ve undoubtedly heard the following story or one like it: “We go through a strategic planning process every few years. They put us in a ballroom somewhere away from the office for a few days. We produce this impressive-looking document and present it with great fanfare during our annual all-staff meeting, only to see it gather dust on the shelf. Nobody ever looks at it again. It’s a complete waste of time.”
Sound familiar? I bet it does. But why? Why do so many people have similar stories like this? If there is one common theme that stands out when speaking to people about strategic planning efforts it is this: Far too much effort is spent perfecting the strategic plan and far too little effort simplifying its execution.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the acronym KISS — “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” But have heard of its better-looking cousin MISS? Probably not, since it is one that I coined. MISS stands for “Make It Strategically Simple.”
And how do you do that, you say? Well, I’m glad you asked. Distill your entire strategic plan down to a one-page Strategic Filter. If you read my 3 Reasons Strategic Planning Fails article you will remember that the best strategic plans place significant emphasis on what you’re NOT going to do anymore. This is where the Strategic Filter comes in handy.
Transfer the major goals of your plan document into a simple four column spreadsheet. Column one contains the strategic goal name, number or brief summary. Column two contains a weight or relative importance of the goal (assuming all goals are not given equal emphasis — this weighting may be the same across the organization or may differ depending on the department or division). Column three should contain a numeric score. I once languished in a board meeting one evening to listening to intelligent people debate the range of this number. I recommend applying MISS and limiting the score to one of three values: -1, 0, +1 (more on that below). Column four is a calculated value equal to the weight times the score. At the bottom of column four would be a sum of the values above.
A score of -1 means that the effort area not only does not support the goal, but it interferes or otherwise makes the goal more difficult to accomplish.
A score of 0 means that the effort area has no positive or negative impact on the goal.
A score of 1 means that the effort area supports the goal.
Have each manager identify the major effort areas within his/her department and “run” each through the filter. Effort areas include projects and specific on-going functions. The result might look something like this:
After completing this exercise, the manager has a good idea which effort areas should be emphasized and which should be de-emphasized or “filtered out.”
This is by no means scientific and you should only dedicate a five minutes per activity area calculating the score. Any longer and you’re violating MISS. The idea is to make sure the activity is headed in a strategically supportive direction. It’s not meant to hold up in a court of law, but you should be able to defend it during a staff meeting and especially at budget or bonus time.
Make use of this simple strategic filter and watch your team rack up strategic Execution Wins!