Welcome to the fifth in the series of weekly articles working through the Intrafocus 7-Step Strategic Planning Process. And it’s one that most organisational managers naturally enjoy and gravitate towards… the all-important projects!

We’ve previously worked through stages 1 – Foundation, 2 – Assessment, 3 – Strategic Objectives, and 4 – KPIs and Targets.

The Power of Projects

When we engage in the strategic planning process, we end up with two types of activities:

  1. Remedial problems that are designed to fix organisational problems and
  2. Strategic projects that are designed to promote positive change.

A good strategy usually has a blend of both and requires projects to move the business forward. We intentionally leave this process stage towards the end of the SPP. Why? Because it requires us to:

  • – First, figure out where we want to go by identifying the vision, priorities and values that will take us there
  • – Secondly, identify what we want to achieve with priorities, objectives and measures,
  • – And thirdly, to work out how to achieve those things with projects delivering the outcome!

The importance of doing things in order

When you consider the order above, the value of the Intrafocus Strategic Planning Process becomes immediately apparent. One of the biggest mistakes that most organisations make when attempting to create a strategy is that they immediately gravitate towards projects (without first identifying their intended direction of travel and priorities) and then start working on projects and measuring the success of the project rather than the success of an objective or goal.

This is wholly understandable, as most managers are natural do-ers who can immediately see where problems can be fixed and opportunities to be capitalised upon within their department or business area. That is a disjointed approach with no collective course of action, no shared and magnified effort, and no successful business strategy! At worst, we end up being busy fools – focused on our immediate priorities and unable to see what will take the organisation forward to where it wants to be.

This also explains why it’s vital for the strategy to be led by the most senior individuals in the organisation, with support from all workforce levels. That direction, communication, focused travel and coherence are vital to keeping everyone in the same direction, and the SPP is the glue that enables this to happen.

What should we know about Strategic Projects?

Again, we recommend that your senior managers and executive lead meet for a workshop, which will usually last about two hours. Projects are categorised by remedial actions to fix problems and strategic projects that promote change.

Remedial actions

Remedial actions are usually quicker and straightforward and should be linked with a KPI. The change in the KPI must then be observed. Again the action must be assigned to an individual rather than a team, and it must be clear and well described, with plenty of detail. If the action grows and becomes a long-term activity, it should become a strategic project and receive the necessary investment and focus.

Strategic projects

These require the initial workshop and may require further planning sessions. This process is more complex as a strategic project will initiate a desired change. They must always be linked with a strategic objective and may need to be progressed through a working group. Factors such as available resources and funding must be factored in too, or the project will never get off the ground.

Examples of  strategic projects could be:

  • To implement a new CRM system or e-Commerce functionality
  • To document the existing customer service process
  • To move towards a centralised operating model and to redesign the organisational structure
  • To carry out a risk audit
  • To deliver a new company culture training programme.

Your leads will probably identify several possible projects, so we recommend weighing them against the cost of implementation, delivery, strategic benefit, and time needed to implement them. Additionally, consider the ROI and the other impact on aligned objectives. Score each proposed project against these criteria and assign a figure of 1 (bad) – 5 (good) for each. 

Once you have identified the critical strategic projects, assign an individual to each and ensure a connection between all of your projects so that they all work together to achieve the strategy.

In terms of a strategy document, this can be a relatively simple paper that describes each project and its associated timeframes, costs and owner. The owner can then develop a detailed delivery plan and provide the necessary progress updates within the broader reporting framework. 

Completing the Intrafocus Seven-Step Strategic Planning Process

We’ve come to the end of step five of the seven-step process. The remaining two steps can run in parallel with the first five steps. And sometimes, they should do. The last two steps are Communication and Automation, and will be looked at over the following two weeks.

For further information, visit the Intrafocus Strategic Planning Process (SPP).

For more hands-on help from an Intrafocus expert, please get in touch with us to find out more. We work with businesses and organisations of all sizes, across all industries and worldwide, helping them achieve true strategy success. Whether you need assistance with workshop facilitation or hands-on guidance throughout the entire process, we’re here for you. Please call us today.