How to Brew Up Strategic Initiatives AND Plan for the Long Term

Posted by Kristin Arnold on January 7, 2019

It’s finally here!  This is the week Joe and I have set aside to do our strategic planning.  We’ll work in the morning and play in the afternoon.  No other work.  No obligations.  Just focused time on the business.

In preparation for this week, we’ve done our internal and external scanning (see last week’s post).  It’s been simmering in that cauldron of ideas and now we’ll be plucking out the emerging strategic initiatives.  It’s a somewhat magical process as the critical issues and gaps seem to float to the surface, ready for picking!

So how does that happen?

After your scanning, you review (or create if you don’t already have) your mission, vision, and values.  That forms the context for the following “strategic thinking” discussion.

The absolute most important piece is your “vision” for the next three (or so) years.  What would energize you, your team, and your company?  What wouldn’t be too huge of a stretch?  Some call this a BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) and frankly, I don’t care what you call it.  But you have to have a firm idea of what “success” looks like and agree that this is where you want to take the organization.

From this vision, ask two key questions:

  1. What are the gaps between our current state and desired state?
  2. What are the critical issues that must be managed?

When you ask these two questions (oh, yes, there can be more, yet I find these yield the magic!), you’ll see a handful of key themes or “categories” emerge.  You turn these categories into your “strategic initiatives.”

For example, a critical issue might be, “Training our personnel in new skills needed to achieve our vision” and a gap might be, “need for talented people that we don’t have on board right now.”  Says kinda the same thing, so the category header might be “talent.”

The strategic initiative statement might be “Have skilled personnel able to expertly and efficiently fulfill their job responsibilities.”  Or, if you are a Jim Collins fan, it might be, “Have the right people on the right seats on the bus.”

Get agreement on these five strategic initiatives (no more than five, or your probability of successfully achieving your strategic initiatives significantly decreases).  Whew!  You’ve now completed the strategic thinking phase and ready to move into long-term planning:

Take each strategic initiative and ask, “What needs to happen in order for us to be successful?”  From this discussion, you’ll create your implementing strategies – the key milestones to your success!  You may even find a few “two-fers” or “three-fers” that cut across two or three strategic initiatives.  These are the highly leveraged activities that you must get right!

Ask for a champion for each initiative to ensure progress gets made and have at least one leading and one lagging metric.  Capture it all on one page and use that one-page plan as your guide for making decisions going forward.

Voila!  Time to go play!


KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.

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