Our CEO explains how to "Keep it simple" with a strategic plan

More often than not, strategic plans consist of five to 50 pages containing precise, highly granular details. Like male peacocks strutting through a harem of hens, management presents the plan to the employees, board of directors and shareholders while our magnificent tail feathers are in full bloom for all to admire.

Let’s face it, as awestruck as our audiences might be during our presentation, everyone in attendance will compliment our effort, politely accept their copies and file them deep in a drawer never to be seen again. But what use is the written plan in guiding the company if it’s buried in everyone’s files?

Toss out your plan

In a prior career managing a small business, I was blessed when our company was selected to be in the first class of twelve strategic material and service supply partners for a top five, multinational energy exploration and production company. Our alliance kickoff meeting was held at the customer’s headquarters to which we were asked to bring our company’s strategic plan. The meeting attendees, including me, arrived at the first morning’s session where we all proudly displayed before us our three-ring binders containing our plans. Since mine was one of the thickest, I knew that the customer would be thrilled by how much time and energy our team put into it. Imagine my chagrin when the CEO of this multinational giant told us to stand up, walk to the waste can and toss our plans into it.

I was then mesmerized when the CEO showed us his strategic plan, which consisted of a single page. He shared with us that it not only served to provide a clear and concise explanation of the plan to employees at all levels, it also provided a powerful, motivating guide to help keep every employee’s actions aligned with the company’s plans since it could be posted in every workstation for constant reference. Since implementing and observing the dramatic results this tool creates, I have used it for every business, nonprofit, charitable and government activity I have lead.

One-page plan setup

The process that results in a one-page plan can take many forms, but keep in mind that it must boil down to the plans essence of no more than four objectives (the “Whats”) supported by five strategies (the “Hows”). Each objective and strategy includes metrics that are compared to numeric, time-bound goals, which are established during the preparation of the plan. The plan is setup in matrix form that also shows the company mission and vision. The relevant blocks in the center of the matrix are then filled using behaviors agreed to between each employee and his or her manager during the employee’s performance review where up to three individual, measurable behaviors are recorded. 

The development of a clear, concise strategic plan involves input from all appropriate company stakeholders that normally contribute to the process. By condensing the plan to its essence of key objectives, supporting strategies, tactics and metrics, the likelihood of its success is greatly enhanced