Now That You Have Your Strategic Plan – What Next?

Next Steps

Now that you have your Vision-Based Strategic Plan (VBP) in hand, right down to the level of the Action and Implementation Plans, and you have the commitment from your leadership team, much of management, and a few mavericks, what happens next? This article describes everything from what you and your strategic planning team do, starting the day after the Phase 2 workshop, to how to update the plan on a regular basis, make major changes as necessary, and keep the Vision and plan going through a change in leadership.

The Implementation Plan describes how you will implement the VBP. We discussed the benefits of establishing a Strategic Planning Group, if you don’t already have one, in order to keep the implementation on track. Remember, these people are not the designers and developers of the plan, they are a support function reporting directly to the CEO, and they need the support of the CEO to be able to hold people accountable for their parts of the VBP.

We have placed a lot of emphasis on the need to communicate the plan to all stakeholders, which is critical. All the participants in the VBP process should ensure they communicate it in detail to their subordinates, asking them how they can contribute to the new Vision.

Maintaining the Plan

Generally, we have found that a VBP developed this way will last at least two years without change and, as an example given in a previous article, 14 years, although that is unusual. However, you must not assume that to be the case. You need to be vigilant. One of the things that needs to be done is to keep track of your external environment, not just your sales, but the STEEP issues in your external environment. This can be one of the roles of your Strategic Planning Group (SPG). Or you can find an organization that does “horizon-scanning” or “environmental tracking” and have their reports and newsletters evaluated by the SPG.

One of the best ways to do this is to have the key parts of the WarRoom on display—in a corridor or around a room—as recommended earlier. Members of the SPG can take their tracking data and walk around the WarRoom asking themselves if anything they are reading/seeing might affect any aspect of the plan. If it does, then they bring it to the attention of the appropriate manager. If it’s a fairly insignificant change, then the manager deals with it himself, or brings in a small team to discuss it. If it’s a major development that could impact the whole organization, then you, as leader, need to bring a team together to deal with it and alter the plan accordingly.

Approximately every 18 to 24 months, or at a change in leadership, it’s worth going through a “sustaining the vision” session. This is generally a two-day workshop with the leadership (and, if necessary, including the new leader) where all of you go through:

  • An assessment of where the organization is with respect to the Vision, Mission and Top-Level Goals. This can be accomplished using the Development Curve method where we draw an S-shaped curve on a flip chart. Then we ask the group to identify where they are on the curve—by sticking colored dots on it. We could get them to research the situation and provide “real” numbers, but the subjective assessment is actually more useful as it gets them to think more broadly about the nature of the development. We then pose a series of questions, first asking what is preventing them from moving up the curve. Then we ask what would help—more funds, people, other resources, fewer constraints?
    • If your organization is not as far along in the achievement of a Goal as it had anticipated, then take a look at the Objectives for the goal and go through the same Development Curve exercise with each Objective.
    • Where there is below-par performance ask why? What’s inhibiting the progress? Find the reasons and ask what the appropriate manager can do to overcome the blocks. If the problem is difficult to solve, then perhaps the time frame for the achievement of the Objective and Goal needs to be extended.
  • An assessment of whether the organization needs more Top-Level Goals, or any Objectives for the goals.
  • An evaluation of any unexpected problems and potential solutions
  • An evaluation of the entire organization in terms of how the participants are thinking about it and feeling about it.
  • Finally, there needs to be a commitment to address and resolve whatever new issues have come up.

If many things are changing in the external operating environment, or if some major decision is made for an acquisition or merger, for instance, then you should go through the complete VBP process again. When in doubt, go back to the WarRoom. Stare at it, walk through it, and ask yourself “What else?” and “What’s missing?”

Above everything else, think strategically and encourage your leadership and management teams to think strategically. It seems to be a dying art, yet it is absolutely crucial for any organization that is serious about success. And get employees at all levels to think about how they might contribute to the Vision.

It’s Up to You…

We hope we have been able to convince you of the value of vision-based planning for all organizations, but especially complex ones, and acquisition and mergers, as well as for the understanding and implementation of complex ideas or concepts.

We have emphasized that VBP is a leadership function, which cannot be delegated below the very top levels if it is to be successful. Leaders must own the process for their organization and participate personally to achieve a successful outcome. When a team is built, consensus is reached, and the leadership has personal ownership of the results, it fosters genuine passion—a critical requirement for success—in implementation of the new ideas and plans.

In the book, and in these articles, we have provided a step-by-step guide any leader can use. It may take a little time to develop the skills to work through the steps quickly and effectively, but it’s worth it. Once the process has been mastered, it can be applied again—to the whole organization or just a part. Success is a choice founded on an ardent desire to achieve a Vision and the capability to attain it by getting the rest of the organization to not only buy into it but to become caught up in it.

To paraphrase our rhyme from the introduction:

‘Tis the set of your sails and not the gales

That determine the way you go’

We find VBP to be a rewarding and fun activity. It stretches us, causes us to think, and keeps our minds active and alive. We hope that it will do the same for you. We wish you the very best of luck and hope that this book will have made life easier for you. As they say in the Navy, we wish you “fair winds and following seas.”

Key Points from this Chapter

VBP is an ongoing process from the moment you return from the Phase 2 workshop.

It includes routine updates as minor changes occur.

It helps you deal with times of great internal and external change.

It describes how you can build on all the good work you have accomplished in this first major VBP Process.

And what you can do when changes and even unanticipated events occur.

Remember, planning is a process, and it should be rewarding and fun.

Editor’s Note: This Article is excerpted from Strategy with Passion: A Leader’s Guide to Exploiting the Future by MacNulty & Woodall


Christine MacNulty
Christine MacNulty
CHRISTINE MacNulty has forty years’ experience as a consultant in long-term strategic -planning for concepts as well as organizations, futures studies, foresight, and technology forecasting, technology assessment and related areas, as well as socio-cultural change. For the last twenty years, most of her consultancy has been conducted for the Department of Defense and the Services, NATO ACT, NATO NEC, the British Army’s Force Development & Training Command, and the German BBK. Prior to that her work was in the commercial arena where she had Fortune Global 500 clients. During the last thirty-five years Christine MacNulty has contributed methods and models for understanding social and cultural change through people’s values. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in 1989. She is the coauthor of two books: Industrial Applications of Technology Forecasting, Wiley, 1971 and Strategy with Passion – A Leader’s Guide to Exploiting the Future, August 2016. Her paper: “Method for minimizing the negative consequences of nth order effects in strategic communication actions and inactions” was published in NATO Defence Strategic Communications Journal, p 99, Winter 2015. Two monographs “Truth, Perception & Consequences” (2007) and “Transformation: From the Outside In or the Inside Out” (2008) were published by the Army War College. Perceptions, Values & Motivations in Cyberspace appeared in the IO Journal, 3rd Quarter, 2009, and The Value of Values for IO, SC & Intel was published in the August 2010 edition of the IO Journal.

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