Revitalizing your Strategic Plan with Microbursts
Developing a strategic plan can be tricky. Implementing it and staying consistent with it are far more challenging. I find that:
- Employees and others are not often familiar with the mission and vision statement let alone the details of a strategic plan.
- Staff do not know the components of the strategic plan or have a sense that what they do furthers the strategic direction of the organization.
- Organizations miss opportunities because they are wedded to a strategic direction that has become outdated or irrelevant.
- Words that are uttered in passing become enshrined as gospel in the strategic plan.
All too often when I talk to people about their strategic plans, they do not know any of the elements or they can recite the words but don’t know (or possibly care) what they mean or how they apply to the organization.
I am a big believer in the value of consensus, the power of the collective, and the benefits of facilitated sessions that reach out to employees, customers, and other stakeholders for strategic planning efforts. At the same time, I am aware that, all too often, words from these sessions can be twisted, misunderstood or become dogma. Something said casually can easily become set in stone. A quick aside, a summary from tired participants, or a flawed voting or prioritization process can mean that the direction set for the organization is created without intent or deliberate choice. This is a disadvantage to the organization and is unfair to those who devote their time and effort to making an organization more effective.
Frequently, strategic plan goals seem to be lofty or unachievable. For some, it is hard to tie day-to-day operations to the strategic plan. This can be disheartening and un-empowering for employees toiling for an employer who they believe fails to recognize the value of their efforts. Additionally, these goals can be become irrelevant or outpaced by the marketplace or technology and linger long after they are meaningful or helpful.
There are notable exceptions and these exceptions tend to be highly successful businesses. They also tend to have employee wellbeing as a key component of the strategic plan.
In the Human Performance Institute’s White Paper, “The Power of an Energy Microburst,” Janet Nikolovski, Ph.D. and Jack Groppel, Ph.D. talk about the fact that work is a series of sprints with times for recovery in between, not a marathon. In fact, it is often during the recovery that we have the best ideas. They define a microburst as “a small (short in duration), intentional activity that results in a disproportionate, higher return.”
This applies to strategic planning as well. Rather than looking at it as a marathon over several years, think of breaking it into sprint like pieces with microbursts along the way. Moreover, with the advent of 24x7 information cycles and access and the expectation of instantaneous responses, we often “micro-learn” enough for the next step or to move forward slightly, before acquiring the next piece of information. It is a very different model than many of us grew up with before access to information was so quick and response times so short.
Strategic planning microbursts are a great way to make significant forward progress on a strategic plan, increase its visibility, and build excitement and energy for its successful completion. Engaging everyone or a business unit in a microburst is a great way to demonstrate the relevance and accessibility of the strategic plan even while setting powerful, far reaching targets.
Microbursts are consistent with exercise approaches (think interval training), e-learning, recommended work techniques (such as Pomodoro), IT development (think Agile and Scrum), and 21st century attention spans. Embracing this approach offers an opportunity to revitalize your organization and your strategic plan, thereby increasing your relevance.
Implementing strategic plan microbursts in your organization is a great way to:
- increase the relevance of your strategic plan
- increase awareness of the strategic plan
- ensure that it maintains currency and vitality
- enhance its resilience
- demonstrate organizational commitment to the tenets, principles, and initiatives embodied in the plan.
Employing principles of wellbeing as part of the strategic planning microburst will:
- increase acceptance of the plan
- demonstrate organizational commitment to employees
- increase loyalty and productivity
- create better outcomes
- improve the bottom line.
- The strategic plan itself could incorporate this process or it can be developed after the fact.
- It can involve the entire organization or an organizational unit.
- It recognizes the importance of employee wellbeing – employees are not expected to do their “day jobs” and then also participate in a microburst AND it incorporates employee wellbeing as a part of the effort.
- It makes specific, tangible progress towards achieving a defined strategic plan objective.
- It is within the context of a governance program that ensures consistency of purpose across the organization, appropriate prioritization, and effective communication.
- Start with a plan. Create a solid strategic plan with employee engagement and consideration for employee wellbeing.
- Maintain currency. Create a focus group or alternative approach to test key elements or assumptions of the strategic plan. If something is outdated or irrelevant, consider adjusting it rather than waiting for the next refresh cycle.
- Involve employees in the design. Solicit employee involvement in the design of the microburst and its subsequent evaluation.
- Communicate. Announce the microburst along with the specific targets associated with it and communicate throughout the process.
- Measure. Identify specific, measureable targets.
- Improve employee wellbeing. As part of the microburst, identify at least one specific element focused on employee wellbeing. Examples include:
- Creating a team to participate in a volunteer activity or a 5K
- Including stress management training as part of a systems implementation,
- Providing a trail for walking as part of an office move
- Upgrading to a healthier cafeteria as part of a new product launch,
- Tell your story. Document successes.
- Move on. Take the success and then move forward.
- Remember it’s a microburst. Take appropriate breaks in between microbursts.
- Set realistic expectations. If employees are working on a microburst, recognize that other efforts might fall behind. Be clear on priorities and expectations.