When the pandemic altered almost every aspect of day-to-day life and business, it was easy — and necessary — to throw your routine action plans to the wayside. Small obstacles had to be cast aside temporarily to allow you to tackle bigger challenges.
We all had to adapt, and do so quickly. Plans changed. But in moments of crisis and extreme change, having a long-term strategic plan can be a guiding light to get your organization, your employees and yourself through times of uncertainty.
Culture beats strategy
While the pandemic is an extreme example, in moments of crisis, culture beats strategy. A strategic plan is best developed by leveraging organizational culture and employee vision.
You need buy-in. Engaging employees early on and often in developing a strategic plan ensures that the ultimate result has an organic foundation that will carry it forward. While no plan can satisfy everyone, conversations, surveys, focus groups and site visits (through critique and criticism) will help build the strongest plan possible.
While it’s easy to let people feel heard, that isn’t enough, and simply doing so would likely develop into a roadmap that may be contradictory. It’s important that your organization has a voice, but then you should shape that voice from common themes.
Once you have those high-level themes and goals, go back to the organization and make sure you’re on the right track. If you can, consider shopping your plan externally.
What you communicate outwardly must be believed inwardly, and the more people you involve in the process, the more advocates your organization will have moving forward. As a leader, it’s important to remember that the success of us lies within others.
Understand your true value
Build a long-term plan that encompasses all that your organization is within its industry and within the people it serves. Don’t just consider your place within the community, research it. Listen to your customer or user base. Once you understand your customers’ needs and satisfactions, research them again so you can stay ahead of trends and changes.
Leverage the knowledge and skills of an external organization to research your value. Doing research doesn’t have to be expensive; once curated, a volunteer online panel can be an extremely valuable resource on its own without incurring the expense of a third party. Make sure you’re using all of the tools available to help you meet and grow with the changing needs of customers and community. The century-old organizations are ones that adapt to the changing needs of the times.
Meet today and tomorrow
It’s easy to create a long-term aspirational plan and put it on the shelf, but doing so won’t guide your day-to-day progress. And it certainly won’t help during a crisis. A strategic plan needs to be a long-term plan, but it also needs to be malleable to change.
The plan should be able to incorporate small updates without losing its core themes and goals. If you create a plan with a strong foundation built upon your employees and your customers, you’ll be well prepared to meet the demands of both today and tomorrow. ●
Brian Zimmerman is CEO of Cleveland Metroparks