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  • Writer's pictureRussell Lookadoo

Ready, Plan, Execute, Win!

Tis the strategic planning season, deck the halls with flip charts and brainstorms. The New Year is coming so we must make resolutions, set goals and get off on the right foot. Ok, so let’s strategic plan again. Let’s reserve a room somewhere. Can everyone clear their calendars for that day? Can anyone even find last year’s plan? What color notebooks should we use this year? Did we achieve all the action plans, strategies and goals? Bother! It is time to break your mold, change your strategic planning process, it does not work.

It is still important for leaders to set direction and establish a clear compelling path for your company to follow. The concept of having a plan is essential, we just need to update the process to reflect today’s rapidly changing business world.

Seven Steps for Simplified, Effective Strategic Planning:

1. Vision. This is still the essential starting point. Establish a no-holds-barred written statement of what you want your company to be. Answer the question, why does the business exist? What does your company do best? This is a shared Vision which is openly communicated to employees and customers. If you have a Vision in place make sure and review and ratify the Vision for the coming year. The world changes, your vision must evolve to thrive. It is your core Values that are timeless.

2. Assess. Conduct a SWOT analysis of your company Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. What is unique or distinct about your business? What strengths or opportunities can you take advantage of to grow your business? Are there weaknesses to correct or threats to consider before you can move forward? Before you embark on a road trip, it is wise to have your vehicle inspected. It is important to narrow this brainstorm SWOT in a short, distilled list selecting the top item in each SWOT category. Creating this very short list leads to the next step.

3. Focus. In the recent best seller, The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling, note that 70% of strategic goals are NOT achieved. The book points out that the more narrow the focus, the greater opportunity for success. Light when tightly focused becomes a laser beam. The laws of physics apply to strategic plan execution as well. My clients are encouraged to choose one “WIG” or Widely Important Goal as the book suggests. Multiple goals become “PIGS” or Pretty Important Goals that will distract from precision execution. Many entrepreneurs fight this concept. Saying no is not their style; all ideas have to be chased. Brainstorm what needs to change to address the focused SWOT. Rank this list, refine the ranking and then choose one. Steve Jobs created his success in being selective on what Apple pursued, saying no to great ideas. Only the most fit idea survives.

Research has shown that firms who set:

  • 10 or more goals achieve none

  • 4-10 goals may achieve 2

  • 1-3 goals may achieve 1 or 2

4. Leverage. If you do not measure, you will not win. The WIG must be expressed in certain terms that have a finish line. Express the goal in “X to Y by When” format with clear starting and finishing measures. Achievers are driven to success but they thrive when success is defined up front. However the WIG cannot be influenced. It is after the fact. It is vital to established Lead Measures to leverage performance. Set strong lead measures that predict success and are within the control of your team. In legendary basketball Coach Dean Smith’s book Basketball – Multiple Offense and Defense he taught that you cannot control the final score; however certain behaviors, when executed will result in a win. For his teams, the players focused on actionable lead measures like assist to turnover ratio and points per possession. When those numbers moved in the right direction, the team won.

5. Engage. The scoreboard matters. When you pass a playground, it is immediately obvious if the players on the court are keeping score. This is true regardless of the sport. When the score is being kept, the intensity and execution becomes crisp and results are achieved. If we do not keep and communicate the score we have a business where the players are just “shooting around” or “hitting back and forth”. Without an accurate and compelling scoreboard your employees are being paid to goof off.

6. Commit. Make sure you perform consistent weekly update meetings. In the Four Disciplines book, the authors call this a Cadence of Accountability. Staying on course toward success also requires the flexibility to embrace an unexpected change in plans. Course changes can be necessitated by myriad factors, including cash flow difficulties, new competitors, or new technology. In a football game, this flexing occurs each play. The results of the prior play, yardage, position on the field, down number and time in the game determine the next play call. I believe this “Just In Time Planning” is the way business must be run today. Each week a new play is called to move the team toward the WIG.

To do this, many of my clients implement weekly ARCH meetings:

  • A: They hold each other Accountable for the prior week’s commitment

  • R: The Scoreboard is Reported with updated WIG and Lead Measure results.

  • C: Each team member makes a Commitment for the next week. The commitments must be related to the lead measures, within their control, and able to be done that week.

  • H: If the teammate needs any Help from their teammates it is discussed at this meeting. Redeploy resources and share knowledge immediately.

7. Recognize. Success needs to be recognized. Top performers, while often self-motivated will especially respond to external acknowledgement. Many Leaders will initially go to money as the key recognition tool. Money is a short erm modifier. There are so many other methods of recognition including promotions, training, gifts, trophies, independent decision making, family gifts and time off. But consider the most effective recognition, saying thank you, especially in a hand written note.

There is a traditional sailor’s saying that “…those who know not their destination have no favorable wind”. However, many in small business simply go where the wind takes them. Having a goal is essential but results are what the game is all about. Simplify your strategic goal setting process and place the emphasis on real time execution. Plan, execute win!

Russell Lookadoo is the HR Guy for small businesses. His firm, HRchitecture, specializes in helping business leaders accomplish their goals by effectively using their teams. Russell brings three decades of experience designing Human Resources solutions that achieve business strategies in varied organizations ranging from a small manufacturer to the nation’s second largest bank. Russell holds the Senior Professional in Human Resources designation from the Society of Human Resources Management and earned the Certified Compensation Professional designation from World at Work. Russell attended the University of North Carolina on the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Industrial Relations. Visit his website at

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