A Plan Doesn’t Matter if You’re Not Going to Use it!

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“We need a plan,” is a phrase you often hear people say. What does that really mean? If you’re a business owner, entrepreneur or executive, it should mean a strategic process aligning deliverables to mission and stakeholder interests.

Prince Kūhiō had a plan when he envisioned a better future for kānaka. HRH Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniʻanaʻole was born on March 26, 1871 in Kōloa on the island of Kauaʻi. An heir of Kaumualiʻi, the last aliʻi of Kauaʻi before Kamehameha I, he was hānai by King David Kalākaua and his wife Queen Kapiʻolani who was Kūhiō’s maternal aunt.

Kūhiō worked tirelessly to improve the lives of kānaka. He believed that the best way of “rehabilitating the race,” was to “place them back upon the soil.” His plan was to firmly connect kānaka to their ‘āina. One of the most important ways he did this was advocating for the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921 which ultimately led to the creation of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

The biggest caveat to strategic planning is that it is a process! Plans don’t grow on trees, and it’s not as easy as downloading a document from the internet. The three most important elements of a strategic plan are “DEF” – Data, Engagement, and Follow-through. Your strategic planning process should be data driven, engage your stakeholders, and result in a plan that you and your stakeholders will follow-through on and continue to improve.

Data looks different for every business. What businesses share is the need for data to define what we do based on our mission and how we do it in alignment with our vision, values and value propositions.

Why is it important to engage our stakeholders in our planning process? Identifying who your stakeholders are is the first hurdle.

Strictly speaking, anyone who touches your business is a stakeholder – from vendors to people who live in the community in which your business operates. Each brings a specific set of inputs from unique perspectives. The wider you cast your engagement net, the more diversity of perspectives you collect with the potential to contribute valuable pearls of insight into making you the best that you can be.

None of this matters if you’re not going to do anything about it. A good plan defines what you do and how to do it, but a great plan includes accountability. It’s important to identify benchmarks and a process that defines clear reporting on output and deliverables.

Change management is often the “skeleton in the closet” in strategic planning – we don’t talk about it and when we do it’s vague, complicated, and scary. Plan for change! Talk about it and practice change management in small ways from the start of your process. This will get your teams used to using it and normalize dealing with change in a consistent and much more manageable way.