Twenty-five states, six weeks, one couple and their five-year-old traveling from Washington to New York and back in a motorhome.
My inner voice agreed with you entirely. Yet, somehow I heard my outer voice telling my husband: “let’s do it!”
He was selling his shares in the company he’d spent over 30 years building and he wanted to hit the road, spurred on by fond memories of a similar trip taken over three decades earlier with his first wife and two oldest children.
With tales of John Denver serenading the family and singing Grandma’s Feather Bed while eating ice cream on the road, I didn’t know if our trip could match up, despite the fact that we’d upped the number of states we planned to visit…
What I did know? It would take some planning!
Luckily we’re both natural planners and my husband was happy to spend (literally!) years planning this trip of a lifetime, all while juggling the numerous “guidelines” I’d put in place. For instance, I didn’t want us to spend more than six hours a day driving, we had to agree to relax our usual screen time rules so our daughter could keep up with My Little Pony while one the road, and we had to balance driving enough hours to allow us to return home to Washington by the end of the six week time frame.
Oh, and you’d better believe that having a hot shower in a hotel room once each week was non-negotiable!
My husband spent many happy hours poring over books, guides, and maps, ensuring we’d chosen the best route possible. There was only one problem. As US General Dwight D. Eisenhower is famously quoted:
“Plans are worthless.”
Of course, not everything went like clockwork. Of course it didn’t.
But with every hitch, came two vital lessons — lessons that we’ll bear in mind the next time we plan an epic adventure, sure, but lessons that we’ve applied to strategic business decisions ever since.
Be flexible and adaptable.
You’ve probably already guessed the first problem we encountered: our plan was too rigid.
In order to travel across the country and return home in six weeks, our plan hadn’t allowed for any side trips, unplanned stopovers, postcard moments, sketchy campgrounds that looked nothing like the website, and it definitely hadn’t allowed for breakdowns!
So when I spotted a sign for the Corn Palace in South Dakota (totally a real thing, who knew!), and proclaimed that I just had to see it, I was met with frustration. This wasn’t in the plan.
We were all about the destination; somehow we’d forgotten about the importance of the journey.
In business, how often do we approach strategic and business planning with a linear mindset? We must transform our business from where it is today to a specific destination by year XYZ. How often do we plan for contingencies? And what opportunities do we miss out on by focusing solely on the destination, never allowing ourselves to be distracted by side trips?
Limit the number of goals.
We had too many goals.
We wanted to see everything. Literally, everything. With only a few days allotted to some destinations, we tried to cram in all of the key tourist areas, often ticking them off the list without stopping long enough to truly appreciate them.
It wasn’t until we were on the final leg of the journey that we realized we should enjoy one, maybe two, excursions at each stop, learn more about the area, and come back again someday to take in the rest.
And so it is in business; at the beginning of any strategic and business planning process, I always see teams with their pens in hand ready to develop a lengthy list of goals. This is actually the easiest part of the process for teams. The hard part is narrowing them down to 3-5 strategic imperatives, and defining 3 – 5 goals, over a 3-year-period that’ll get them there.
So how do teams even begin to identify the goals worth following?
The key is taking a critical look at the current corporate tasks consuming your time. Are these tasks really adding value? Are they truly as important as this new goal you’re hoping to achieve? Will this task help you to reach your vision?
If not, stop doing it. When we say yes to new goals and initiatives, we must recognize we are inevitably saying no to something else. Let’s be intentional about how we spend our time and how this time can be spent moving our business forward.
Strategic planning and the pandemic.
That’s all well and good, I hear you cry, but is any of it applicable right now as we face the biggest roadblock most of us have ever encountered?
Well, remember that Eisenhower quote from before? It turns out there’s an extra clause:
“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”
I read an article recently about how post-COVID isn’t the time to put a strategic plan in place. I disagree. Now, more than ever, we need a plan. We didn’t anticipate COVID19 and I suspect no one included a global pandemic in their own strategies. But, it’s here. It’s impacting our businesses, how we operate, how we work together, and how we transform our businesses.
Yes, we have blind spots and we don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future. But, I have always believed it is in the planning and in the journey — not the destination — where the greatest strategy occurs. Strategic and business planning shouldn’t result in a static plan that sits on a shelf collecting dust, but rather a guidance tool (or a roadmap) to a better (more profitable or impactful) future.
Whether you choose to develop your plan internally or hire a facilitator to help you with your planning, don’t wait. Now, is the time to activate your plan, to revise your current plan, or create your first strategic plan. We’d love to talk to you about what you might need, so get in touch. I’ll even show you a picture of the Corn Palace that so rudely interrupted our own plans!