Performing strategically can be daunting. Your operational and functional work will always take priority unless you carve out specific time for the strategic stuff. Strategic effort is particularly frustrating when you’re in the weeds and tensions are running high. The irony, of course, is that is when you need strategy the most.

Getting started can feel like the hardest part. Ideally you want a professional to come in and assess the situation and facilitate the development and planning. When it comes to strategic planning it’s what you don’t know that you don’t know that can sink you.

But maybe you just want to explore strategic planning a bit first. Maybe you want to have a better understanding of how it works before you reach out to a professional.

As a helpful exercise, pull your team together and go through the steps below.

Your first step is to create a statement that articulates what your strategic vision is. What do you want your organization to look like? How do you want to be performing? Where do you want to be relative to your competitors?

From there you identify 1 to 3 major goals. They need to be ambitious, achievable, and measurable. Remember that the purpose of these goals is to realize you strategic initiative. They will set the tone for how you and your team perform throughout a specified time period. Everything you do will be in service to these goals.

Once you have defined those key goals, develop your feeder or anterior goals. These strategic goals are in service to the key goals. They act as milestones for the larger goals. They are victories on their own, but they also move you close to that strategic vision. These goals are more manageable conceptually and may be specific to certain sectors or departments within a larger organization.

The rest of your strategic development is figuring out what your projects (and their associated tasks) will be in order to accomplish those feeder goals.

There is a lot of work and re-working involved with this process. Don’t be discouraged when you have to go back and make changes. Also, don’t do this on your own. One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is to develop a strategic plan in isolation and then deliver it via proclamation. Strategic planning is a team effort.

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