5 Steps to Planning and Strategy in Leadership and Management
Getting things done can be difficult in any platform of life. In leadership or management, it can be even more difficult. It is important that we are able to develop plans and then implement them in order to be effective at completing various tasks or projects. There is a specific management process that outlines the importance of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling that I refer to a lot because it helps us not only organize our actions in a way that is fruitful, but also to organize our thoughts.
Step 1: Establish the Mission, Vision, and Values
Establishing the mission, vision and values is the foundational step to planning and strategizing in management and leadership. Here we think about what we are trying to complete as well as identifying the direction that we want to go and how we will get there. If we do not identify where we want to go, then we can never really direct our efforts to get us there. When we spend time in this step we really want to use our creative brain to dream about possible outcomes, and allow ourselves to fantasize about what it should look like once we arrive. From this vision we are able to determine what we actually want and where we actually want to end up. It is important that we do not skimp on this step because it allows us a returning point if we encounter any failure. The old saying, “Back to the drawing board”, usually refers to returning to this step.
Step 2: Identify the Current Situation
It is important to be able to identify where we currently are as leaders, managers, or an organization. It is important to be honest with ourselves in assessing our current situation as it is, and not confusing it with where we want to be or trying to make mental concessions that give us a false position. Our success in this step will be determined by our ability to be brutally honest with ourselves. The more honest we can be the more successful we will be here and the more prepared we will to be to successfully execute the following steps in rolling out the plan and strategy.
Step 3: Formulate the Strategy and Plan
This is the step where it happens. We have established our mission, vision, and values and have taken the time to figure out where we currently stand against that mission. Here we get to use our imagination to come up with action steps to emerge successful and group those steps into a recognizable strategy from start to finish. The keyword to success here is to be thorough. While it is important to get through all of the steps, it is not uncommon to draft and then re-draft in order to make sure that you have covered all of your bases and identified potential problems along the way. Use various note taking techniques and multiple sources of media in order to help you along. This step is the step where it feels like the magic is really happening, and if you are able to find some comfort in existing in this step, you will feel enlightened through the rest of your journey.
Step 4: The Implementation (The Big Step)
It is no secret that plans fail because they are just those, plans. So many leaders and managers have grandiose plans that exist for eternity but never become reality. The reason most plans never see this stage is because in order for them to become manifest, the action steps outlined in the strategy actually need to happen. This takes effort, will, and energy. When we realize that we are done with the formulation of the plans and strategies, however complete or incomplete that they feel, we must begin taking the steps necessary to bring them into existence. A common issue here is that plans never “feel” complete with the leaders or managers that formulate them, so the implementation part of the process is never given a chance.
There is a two-fold truth to this. The first part is that it is important to complete step number three, so that we feel confident in executing the implementation. It is commonly true that we never attempt implementation because we are not comfortable with our plans and strategies and would feel silly in trying to implement them or going for the goal. The other side to this coin is that we are just unwilling to jump out there and begin, regardless of how we feel about the plan or strategy. Both truths are important and what is also important to realize is that there is a fulcrum that swings both ways. It is possible to have an under-developed plan or strategy, but be willing to jump out there and set it in motion and still achieve success, and it is also possible that we have an overly thought out plan and strategy to the point of delaying real results, and still feel as if it hasn’t properly matured into a plan that we are willing to act on, so then we do not act on it and it never experiences implementation. What is important here is doing. Realize that you have arrived at the moment of implementation and take one step in front of the next and begin to do through will, energy, and desire.
Step 5: Strategic Control
As we work through the steps of implementation, we will encounter that old saying, “Back to the drawing board”, and have to indeed, return to the drawing board. Compare results of implementation against the established mission, vision, and values in order to see if we are achieving what we actually want to achiever, or if we have to exert some strategic control in order to correct our direction. The only truth here is that things will go and go as they may we must make sure that their direction is in line with what we intend. In the situations that things seem to be going in a way that we would rather them not go, we must adjust the strategy in order to correct the destination. This is the step that established plans will spend most of their time in. Something that we had set in motion years ago may re-surface and need some strategic adjustment.
As a leader or manager in an organization one of the most difficult things to do regarding this step is to realize a mission and vision that was born of another leader or manager going astray. This is particularly difficult if that leader or manager is no longer with the organization. Here it is important to be a good member of your team that you tap into the mission, vision, and values that was used as a drawing board for implementing a past plan in order to exert strategic control. I think of a project of warehouse management systems in my organization that was set up years ago. We encountered a problem with this system and needed to correct it, while also staying aligned with the vision that it was originally intended for.
Why Planning and Strategic Management are Important?
It is key as managers and leaders that we focus on the critical problems, choices, and potential opportunities. From here we can use our decided direction in order to tackle the multitude of problems that we may face. On teams this creates motivation if it is delivered correction, and leadership is motivation. People are aware of being led by the blind, and we do not want to allow ourselves to slip into that category. We are able to maintain a position of leadership if we are able to successfully plan and strategize in order to lead our team to completing missions and goals. With every successfully implemented strategy as a leader or manager, you will build rapport with your team. If you use this rapport that is being built, you will eventually get to experience some of the great joys that come along with managing and leading.
Some tools for the process:
When it comes to the very basic level of planning and strategizing, I recommend some basic tools in order to keep one’s life as simple and clear as possible. I am an iPhone user, but believe you can use any technological software in order to organize your own life. Keep in mind that what I am getting at is we have to first plan and strategize our own lives before we can expect to be leaders and plan and strategize others. In my phone calendar I keep my work schedule as well as any important appointments. For the rest I use a daily planner.