Here are five key principles that will make you succeed in growing your organization, increase productivity and develop staff in 2018 and beyond:

Understand the current state of your organization:

If you want to specify the future direction of your organization, you first need to know where exactly you stand. Do this by collecting data from internal sources (staff, management) and outside organizations (suppliers, customers). Ask them and yourself: What specifically is working well and what is not? This simple but meaningful question helps identifying gaps as well as strengths in performance. By understanding the current organizational state, your strategic objectives and goals will be based on strong data and not just gut feeling. Your managers will in turn have clarity on your organizations’ strengths and areas for improvement.

The fewer the better:

Resources like time, money and staff capacity are limited in most organizations. And still it is easy to get excited about future plans and identify a long list of objectives, strategies and improvement areas during strategic planning sessions. However, narrowing down this list to a handful of initiatives increases the chances for success significantly. Recently I worked with a client who had proposed 21 different strategies for one goal. In an initial step we divided those strategies into four categories: must do; maybe; wait and don’t. By only focusing on the twelve strategies from the “must do” category and evaluating each strategy against scope of control, impact on goal and resource requirement, we eventually settled on six strategies. Going through this process will not only lead to more clarity on what is important but will also increase the likelihood of using your organization’s resources more effectively.

Develop specific and clear goals:

No one sets out to develop a strategic plan, so they can reverse or stagnate growth and productivity. However, too many leaders settle for generic goals that do not inspire action. There are several reasons for this, for example a lack of data to provide insight on the capabilities of the organization or poor facilitation during development of the strategic plan. Another reason is a lack of incentive by top leadership to consistently challenge themselves. Organizations, however, succeed when their leaders are aligned to specific and clear goals. If your goals are easily adaptable to almost any organization then you need to dig deeper. You need to develop goals that are a constant and meaningful reminder to all employees, so that they can see what you specifically stand for and what success will therefore look like in the future.

Align strategies to the goals:

Organizations succeed when strategies and initiatives are directly linked back to goals. It is quite common though to find organizations that have great goals but still adopt initiatives that do not align with or contribute to those goals. There are two questions which can help align strategies to goals: “What exactly do we need to achieve goal X?” and “Does this activity/project contribute to goal X?” These questions are best used during the strategy brainstorming sessions. This approach will only work if the goal is specific and measurable. If the goal is generic, it is important to stop and immediately clarify what the specific goal is.

Execute the strategy with consistent management routine:

There are two major reasons why strategies fail. Too often the reviewing process only begins in preparation for the next strategic plan. Another reason is a lack of ownership among managers. I have done a few dozen organizational assessments over the years. But only two of those organizations had a Direct Responsible Individual (DRI) tasked with leading a strategy. By not having a DRI, there was less incentive to regularly review progress and tailor initiatives based on performance. Successful organizations review and adapt strategies regularly by considering changing needs of the market and customers. This can only happen if strategies and measures are easily accessible to managers and staff and are included as part of routine management meetings. By implementing this process and reviewing progress towards goals, your strategic planning will shift from a once off planning session to continuous engagement of staff and managers in identifying core needs of your organizations.