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Fireside Chat: Discusses the Modern Strategic Plan

We sat down with Stephen Lynch, award-winning author to discuss how companies can streamline their business goals and successfully carry out their strategic plans.

Here is a transcript of the conversation. 

Evan Klein: Tell us about the companies you work with. What business challenges are they looking to overcome?

Stephen Lynch: Our target customer is a small to medium-sized business, with typically 20 to 100 employees. The CEO is fed up with not achieving goals and is looking for a software system to help them execute the company strategy more effectively. A tool that gives visibility into the metrics, projects, and tasks being worked on by employees, and guides managers how to run more productive meetings with their employees to coach performance.

Why is the one-page business plan so effective with companies?

A complex, multi-page document or slide deck is unlikely to be read or understood by everyone in your company. It is also highly unlikely to be looked at frequently. It’s not just a management cliche, with a one-page strategic plan you can literally “get everyone on the same page” with a unifying document that clearly and simply informs your people about: who we are, where we are going, and how we plan to get there.

In the past, clients would capture their one-page strategic plans on paper, print it out, and post it at people’s workstations. These days the strategic plan is hosted online as one of the core components of the software. A modern strategic plan is not a static document anymore, it is “live”. It connects to your data sources so everyone can see how well the company is executing your strategy in real time.

Businesses along with strategic goals are continually evolving. How do you recommend senior leaders get employee buy-in to maximize success?

To start with, we recommend a quarterly cadence for strategic planning. Think of the process as a series of quarterly sprints. You work hard and race toward a finish line that’s only 90 days away.

It’s close enough for you to see. At the end of that sprint, you stop for a moment, put your head up, and assess how you’re doing and whether anything has changed in your environment. Then you choose the Strategic Projects to work on for the next quarter and get back to work.

Quarterly Strategic Review sessions are critical because they help you stay focused but flexible, and they reconnect everyone to the company strategy. Here is a brief outline of the 3 step process we recommend: 1. Review strategic execution from last quarter (also called an After Action Review). 2. Update your SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). 3. Choose Strategic Projects for the next quarter.

Managers can increase buy-in by involving employees in the After Action Review process, so everyone can share their achievements, lessons learned, and recommendations for improvement. It’s unrealistic to involve every employee in the actual strategic planning session, but if employees know their input helps to inform the strategic decisions, they are more likely to buy in.

On a daily basis, you can enhance buy-in with a software dashboard where employees can see how their personal goals roll up to the team goals, and ultimately the company goals. You engage every employee by showing them the impact their work has on driving the company strategy forward.

What customer experience or Voice of Employee metrics do you find companies focus on? What do you suggest they track?

We have software clients from many different industries all around the world. Our implementation team supports clients to identify and track the key metrics that reflect the health and drive the performance of all functional areas.

When it comes to the customer experience, I find many operations metrics tend to bleed into the customer success team metrics. For example, if you provide physical goods, operations metrics like DIFOT% (percentage of orders “Delivered In Full, On Time”) is crucial to ensure what is ordered by the customer is received as expected. Return% is another operations metric which reflects the health of the customer experience.

When it comes to the customer success team itself, the 5 most common metrics I see would be: NPS (Net Promoter Score), CES (Customer Effort Score), # Support Tickets, Average time to resolve support tickets, and # Customer Callbacks (within 7 day period of original support ticket resolution).

When it comes to Voice of Employee metrics, I commonly see an internal variant of NPS that measures the extent to which employees would recommend the company to their friends, along with 1 or 2 follow up questions to probe the reason for the score and suggestions for company improvement.

Finally, what is the most important piece of advice you offer companies looking to execute their strategic plans?

Obviously, I am going to say that a strategy execution software tool is going to help, but making performance visible is just the first step. I have a saying that I share with clients: “Successful Business Execution is 20% giving people clarity about what needs to be done, and 80% following up to make sure it actually gets done”.

Managers must run effective meetings every week to discuss performance. They also need to praise and acknowledge good performance (most managers do not praise their people frequently enough. Poor performance must be called out, however. It’s not fun, but it has to be done. Problems seldom fix themselves. If you allow metrics, projects, and tasks to fall behind, the manager is implicitly saying to the entire team that poor performance is OK. Yes, people will show and up do their work, but no-one takes performance and accountability seriously. If you are not careful, they will not take the manager seriously either.