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Strategy Season 2 6170745d5952b

It’s Strategy Season: What Will You Tackle First?

Oct. 20, 2021
Navigating a new trail requires a well-drawn map.

Fall marks the beginning of strategy season. It’s a time to define important objectives, implement action plans and monitor key performance indicators to ensure your priority or “wildly important goal” (WIG)  is successfully accomplished.

Navigating a new trail is hard without a map. Essentially, your strategy links all business units’ employees and objectives, so everyone is working to achieve a singular goal.

Getting Started

Strategy begins with defining your company’s mission and core values, which act as guardrails to keep your decision-making focused and on track.

Our mission at Onex is “Make Things Better: Empowered Employees, Happy Customers, Thriving Communities.” In all that we do, we strive to be creative, work hard, be inspired, stay humble and be kind.

As a company, we once lost sight of our mission and people-centric values. Financial failure was imminent. Our board of directors helped us redefine our mission and values as well as implement a strategic plan to help us get back on track.

What Comes Next?

After you have established a five-year strategic plan for your business and defined your company’s mission and values, you can begin the strategic planning process. Break down your five-year vision into bite-size pieces, starting with an annual wildly important goal, around which you can formulate a focused plan to reach.

Wildly Important Goal     

Every year, I begin with one wildly important goal for the company. That is not to say that we will not have other goals or projects throughout the year. The WIG is meant to focus every business unit team on applying energy to meet the high-level priority.

Because Onex is now 100% employee owned, for 2021, our wildly important goal is increasing earnings per share, and we have educated all of our employees on their role in making this happen.  

Where most companies go wrong is they try to focus on too many good goals instead of one great goal that will really move the needle. Having too many goals causes everyone to feel stressed, overwhelmed and ultimately unmotivated.

Onex suffered from this goal-setting issue early on, in the midst of our company’s turnaround. Originally, there were three to five goals per employee plus subgoals on the path to completing the main goals. By the time all the goals were rolled out to the organization, it was well into the first quarter. Many goals changed due to fluctuating market conditions. The whole process was frustrating and tiresome for the organization.

Objectives and Action Plans

Today, after the wildly important goal is established, everyone in the organization defines their own personal goal in alignment with the one priority for the year. When you ask the people closest to the work to define their goal, they know what improvements they can make and hold themselves accountable to the goal they set for themselves. No more cascading goals throughout an organization, only to have them not apply and need an overhaul after a few short months.

Once the team understands the goal, it is time to define the key objectives that will keep everyone pulling in the same direction. All the objectives across key business units should be included on the one-page plan because everyone needs to understand and know how their work helps meet the goal.

Why one-page, you ask? Too many strategic plans get put on the shelf and dusted off yearly. A one-page plan per person and per business unit can be displayed and seen on a daily basis. The action items are experiments you execute quickly in order to meet your personal objective for the year in pursuit of the company-wide priority. A one-page plan will provide just the focus you need to stay on track.

The strategic plan also breaks down each key objective into a plan of action. I cannot stress how crucial these action plans are for each specific business unit. Each area of the business must complete their part of an action plan to meet their key objective to support the wildly important goal. The action plan must include ownership and due dates.

For instance, in the marketing department, personnel can increase earnings per share by driving qualified leads to the sales team. If the sales team spends less time cold-calling potential clients and more time with addressing qualified leads, the company’s travel cost decreases and revenue increases with more clients served. Win, win!

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Getting the wildly important goal, key objectives and action plans correct makes it much easier to decide what data you will need to monitor to make sure your strategic plan is on track. KPIs are the quantifiable measurements used to help determine whether a company’s strategic, financial and operational goals are being met.

Let’s review our marketing example to see how KPIs play a role. Marketing knows that they need to touch 1.000 prospects to generate 50 qualified sales leads. The marketing team’s most important activities must create the sales leads. Therefore, tracking the number of qualified leads is a KPI tracked by our marketing department.

Changing Conditions

As with all goals, if conditions change (consider our worldwide pandemic), you need to pivot course as needed. After any crisis, things will never be the same, so we must figure out how to operate in our “new” normal and change our strategy accordingly.

Gather your team and brainstorm the best ways to proceed. Hands-on activities are the best way to host a strategic discussion. Therefore, I have everyone brainstorm twenty-seven ways to grow the business. Why twenty-seven? Because after fifteen, you have to dream big and think strategically.

When people are a part of the process, they are more than willing to help and hold themselves accountable to the plans they helped devise. Even in the most turbulent times, we must continue to move forward with a plan. The success of our mission depends on how well we structure and execute against the plan.

Now that you understand how to create a strategic planning process you can see how valuable it is to carve out the time to work on the business and not just in the business. Trust me, I know that most days are filled with operational issues, but it’s imperative that you make the time to step back and access the company to determine what your vision of the future is. But you cannot stop there. Instead, you have to devise a plan to meet your goal.

Reflection: Are you reviewing your company’s strategic plan yearly, making adjustments as necessary?

Ashleigh Walters is president of Onex and author of Leading with Grit and Grace.

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