This month, we asked our members: How do you find time away from the day-to-day running of the business to focus on strategic planning?
Here are some highlights from the responses we received.
Since strategic planning is one of those “important but not urgent,” proactive activities, we make sure to schedule strategic meetings on everyone’s calendars for the entire year before the year starts. These scheduled meetings include quarterly strategic planning and review sessions with the company’s leadership team. The leadership team also meets quarterly with our employee advisory team to gain critical perspective on the strategic issues that our staff has identified. We’re then able to identify and prioritize our top strategic initiatives and then create quarterly action items which have S.M.A.R.T. goals with specific deadlines, deliverables, and accountability to develop our strategic conversations into tangible results.
At Brooklyn Brewery, we meet for a two-to-three-day period at one of our partners’ houses in the Poconos. We do this with our board of directors, our operating committee, our sales team, and our marketing team. The isolation of the Poconos, away from the phones and iPhones and other distractions, allows us to think more expansively about the direction of our company. We periodically review our vision statement and the strategic and tactical activities of our company. We also cook together and drink beer together at these retreats. We play golf, go hiking, or go shooting, too. We are not wedded to any set agenda. It is as much a team-building experience as it is a planning process. We do this annually, and more often if necessary.
Quarterly offsites are crucial. I like to visit a great company or program, such as Zappos, Rackspace, or Verne Harnish’s Gazelles200, as a group to serve as a catalyst for our thinking. Having a strategic planning facilitator helps move the process along. Also, I spend every Monday morning alone in a coffee shop to review how we are doing against our plan and use that time to think bigger thoughts.
I pick the same time, one day a week, to meet with my partners and a few other key people (as appropriate) to focus for a couple of hours on strategic thinking and planning. Building it into my schedule like that just becomes part of the natural rhythm of running the company. With the economy changing so rapidly on many levels, it is vital that we keep talking about and rethinking our core strategies on a consistent basis. The pressure of having to meet every week keeps us all thinking all the time.
The truth is, I’m a lousy strategic planner. I wish it wasn’t so, but, with a gimlet eye on reality, it must be so stated. Spiritual leadership, understanding market opportunity, establishing and maintaining a corporate culture, and personal rainmaking—these things I am good at. My personal strengths as an entrepreneur are big-picture strengths. Using these attributes is where I should be spending my time.
When it comes to execution, my colleagues and executives are superior to me in almost every way. They know how to meticulously plan and effectuate concepts. They know how to actually make the sausage. Therefore, once goals are set, I try to be involved with the specifics of strategic planning only in its final stages: to approve or disapprove, to assist through my personal contacts, and to make sure any initiative is consistent with my company’s long-term brand and ethics.
I simply do not spend my time on detailed strategic planning. I approve, appreciate, and analyze the work of my very skilled colleagues and coworkers, who accomplish this crucial task much more efficaciously than I ever could.
It’s easy to let the day fly by with all of my immediate priorities, so I do my best to micro-manage my time. I schedule everything down to the 15 minutes (my life is completely tied to my Google calendar), and I make sure that strategic planning fits in. Our VP team meets on a weekly basis to discuss our progress and plan for the future. I also set aside time to think through strategy with our board members and advisors—they’re full of insights and taking the time to brainstorm with them is always valuable. Finally, Saturday mornings are my best thinking time. I’m able to clear out my inbox and start thinking ahead.
Daria Meoli is the Executive Editor at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at email@example.com