Strategic Planning Methods
You’re sitting on a video call with your CMO, CFO and the new lead managers you hired in 2021. The company has grown extraordinarily fast, and your new additions are total all-stars.
You’re on a strategy planning call, and ideas are flying left and right. Everyone is buzzing—2022 is fertile ground for big change.
Your meeting is off-the-charts productive. A digital, multi-player whiteboard keeps everyone on topic. The new normal of remote work has been a boon for your team because you brainstorm better with digital tools at your fingertips.
Over the course of the call, your team picks the best ideas from the bunch. These are huge initiatives that could change everything for you in 2022.
Then, just like some tiresome, cliché New Year’s resolution, those ideas wither and die.
Your brand continues growing, but the systems weren’t in place to scale. Everything starts to break.
Where did your business break?
As it turns out, the participants of your legendary meeting were all driving toward different goals. There was no alignment. High-flying projects that everyone owned were ultimately handled by no one.
You were right about one thing, though: strategic planning is the foundation you build your ideas out on.
Once you have that foundation set, alignment is how you grow your business with everyone moving in the same direction. With your mission visible at all levels, everyone drives toward the clear objectives of your plan.
Strategic planning and alignment are more than buzzwords. They’re how you build a business.
Here’s how we handle our own strategic planning and alignment at MultiplyMii and how you can adapt these processes for your own business.
The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX)
The 4 Disciplines of Execution (or 4DX for short) is a process designed to harvest ideas and stay true to them through accountability.
The principles of 4DX are actually age-old values of effective leadership. Most successful leaders share these already. 4DX organizes them into a four-pillar framework that focuses your energy in a deliberate and repeatable way.
With more team members today who are co-located, working from home, or on hybrid models, leaders are faced with applying 4DX principles differently in different environments. We’ll include some examples to get you started.
Discipline 1: Focus
The first discipline is focus. By focusing on the most important goals, more gets done. If you devote 5% of your time to each of 20 goals, you won’t get any past the finish line. Focus your energy on just three goals instead, and they’ll get done and done better.
The most important goals are commonly called WIGs in 4DX, or “Wildly Important Goals.”
Examples of how you gain focus:
- Break big goals down into “milestones” to recognize progress and keep momentum
- Create a hierarchy of ownership over a project where many people are involved
- Crack down on the myth of multitasking and focus on one to three goals only
- Reduce the number of team member KPIs so no one has more than five
Discipline 2: Leverage
Leverage is the second discipline. It means you act on lead measures only. First, you identify the measures that predict or track progress toward your goals. Then, you pick only those that can be actively influenced by you and your team. Those are lead measures.
Remember that what you control is what you can leverage. Something like your local market conditions cannot be a lead measure because you don’t control it.
Examples of how you use leverage:
- Identify lead measures for leadership based on the success of those they lead
- Regularly review lead measures with the whole team
- Build incentives based on lead measure performance
Discipline 3: Engagement
The discipline of engagement requires you to create a compelling player scoreboard. Members of the team must see it often. This is where you establish whether each player is either winning or losing against their lead measures.
This spurs more than competition, too. It also reminds people that they have the authority to drive their own outcomes. This encourages the level of performance that only passion can produce.
Examples of how you use scoreboard engagement:
- Send out daily standing meeting updates for self-reporting on goals
- Display a leaderboard on your internal site and review it often with your team
- Crowdsource ideas for rewards and prizes for hitting measures out of the park
Discipline 4: Accountability
Accountability is the fourth and final discipline. Without accountability, ideas will be doomed to die every time.
One way to keep people accountable is to hold regular Level 10 meetings, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. You’ll read more about that in a minute.
Examples of how you build accountability:
- Even for ideas that require multiple players, assign an “owner”
- Provide full transparency on everyone’s progress toward respective goals
- Get past barriers using hard questions, like “what do you need to get this done?”
Discipline 4 is where the game is actually played. It’s only successful, however, when Disciplines 1, 2 and 3 set up a winning strategy for the team.
Systems for Traction
There are whole frameworks designed around accountability. These systems all help you build traction. In business, traction is what keeps you moving after the initial burst of energy that sets an idea in motion.
Too often, leaders look at strategic planning as a once-a-year event. It’s a one-and-done annual “shindig.” In reality, you have to see strategic planning as an ongoing exercise throughout the year.
At MultiplyMii, we use the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) to organize our ideas and projects with a simple set of concepts and practical tools. EOS is a framework built to help leadership achieve three things:
- Achieve Vision (and getting everyone in your organization aligned with that vision)
- Build Traction (injecting focus and accountability into everything you do)
- Promote Health (helping leaders become a more cohesive and dynamic team)
When your whole team has traction, it feels amazing. You move collectively toward a goal, and you feel your tires grip the ground as you gain speed. Every spin of the wheels covers more distance.
“Health” Answered by the L10 Meeting
Be honest: have any of your executive meetings recently been a total waste of time? If anyone sits there bored, or walks away without an action item, that executive meeting failed. Each meeting should improve your team as leaders and get you closer to your goal or vision.
The Level-10 (L10) meeting is a concept compatible with EOS but applicable for any business. This is a leadership meeting with teeth. Attendees walk in and develop strategies they’re held accountable to. It’s how teams keep the required cadence to reach their goals in time, too, because it’s structured to resolve your top problems in 90 minutes or less.
L10 meetings typically have a structure of 90 minutes and take place once a week. A total of 25 minutes are for reporting and 60 minutes are spent problem-solving.
If you did the math and wonder where those other five minutes went, check out this L10 meeting template to see how it’s broken down…
L10 Meeting Agendas
- 5-minute check-in where each participant shares an accomplishment from the last week (this can be a personal or professional accomplishment).
- 5-minute scorecard review where each attendee updates his or her scorecard or metrics and adds uncovered issues to the “issue list.”
- 5-minute “rock review” where each participant states whether they’re on or off track for their major 90-day goal (which is the one “rock” they’ve committed to, rather than a “boulder” or “pebble,” which are each progressively smaller goals). Anyone off track adds issues they face to the “issue list.”
- 5-minutes to share customer or employee feedback with the rest of the team, good or bad. Issues identified are added to the “issue list.”
- 5-minute “to-do” list review where each team member states whether they’re done, not done, or working on their tasks from the previous week’s list. Additional issues uncovered are added to the “issues list.”
- 60-minute discussion around the top issues. This is the IDS portion of the meeting, or “identify, discuss and solve.” Go through the IDS process for the top one to three issues. If there is extra time, try to squeeze in a fourth. All problems should be completely resolved before moving onto the next.
- 5-minute recap to review the updated “to-do” list and ensure everyone has total clarity on next steps.
L10 meetings have been tried and tested by thousands of businesses and gained popularity due to their impact. Now that teams are distributed around the world, these meetings have even greater influence to keep people working as a team toward a shared vision.
Alternatives to 4DX
4DX is effective at reigning in to-dos so that people don’t get swept up in their daily activities (and distractions). It’s not, however, the only framework to get leaders and teams aligned behind a strategic plan.
Another framework used to set and monitor goals is the OKR system, which stands for “Objectives and Key Results.” The methodology starts by managing priorities and then focuses on the top priorities with measurable objectives.
For example, an OKR goal could look like:
- Objective: Launch to new e-marketplace
- Key result: Add marketing strategy for this channel to marketing plan
- Key result: Optimize product data for new channel
Both the OKR and 4DX framework help leaders take ideas, turn them into goals, and then implement them. Both frameworks help reach a superior level of focus and engagement across whole teams. They’re both relatively easy to learn, too.
Each framework has its strengths. OKR can work as both a goal structure and an execution framework. With a deeper focus on goals, it adds strategic weight with timeframes, which aren’t inherently a part of 4DX.
Ultimately, the system a team uses should be the one they prefer, no matter the reason. If you commit to a framework and use it, it will drive success.
Measure and Grow
Today more than ever, successful leaders and brands operate off data, never assumptions. Some of the top CMOs have been quoted that the best marketing is completely divorced from what the marketers themselves like.
To complete your own strategic plan for 2022, the one thing to take to each meeting is data.
With data and facts, you know where you stand. You’ll know where to step, too.
Scorecards are an inherent part of 4DX, and key indicators lay the foundation of OKR. Both scorecards and key indicators are based on clear metrics.
Transparency with metrics keeps your team find more passion every day, too. People play the game differently when you’re keeping score.
Scorecards and key indicators provide “wins” that your team will feed off of along the way. These can come in the form of reaching critical goals or simply making measurable process.
Ensure your metrics are all:
- Based on lead measures
- Visible to everyone
Creating and updating a strategic plan drives the very vision of your company. Your leadership and team members stay strong. You remain agile to roll with the changing tides, too (which are coming in faster every day).
An effective strategic plan for 2022 has to be bigger than a great idea. It includes the implementation of the idea that you live and breathe every day.