Software development is the cornerstone of nearly all new technology businesses; agility and efficiency are the building blocks of success. Yet, is there space for strategic planning in this world of rapid iteration? During my tenure at a Boston based tech company, I witnessed strategic plans fail due to competing initiatives, changes in the industry landscape, and analysis paralysis. As organizations grow, the distance between leadership and operational teams gets wider as the alignment between strategic gaps and opportunities becomes blurrier. To combat this fate, leadership teams should develop a forum for operational teams to regularly provide strategic insights. Here is my take:
1. Operational teams should review projects monthly to ensure that they are aligned with the strategic plan.
- Operational teams have their own project backlogs, but the strategy map and leadership team should inform their priorities.
- If a project is not on the strategic plan or contributing to the plan, don’t do it.
- If operational teams continue to find critical pieces are being missed, surface the information to leadership and request a re-examination of the strategic plan.
2. Strategy reviews of operational progress should happen quarterly.
- Operational teams should meet with leaders quarterly to review their progress against the strategic plan. This conversation should highlight successes and surface impediments.
- Don’t hesitate to make course corrections. Leadership teams should allow ops teams to utilize resources where it really matters.
- The worst thing you can do is leave your operational teams in limbo due to analysis paralysis.
- Under a rapid iteration approach, operational teams should feel empowered to attempt new approaches to solve strategic problems. If one approach doesn’t work, move on to the next one.
3. Annual reviews and planning should consider key insights for the quarterly review process, while incorporating learnings from an environmental scan
- Industry analysis is critical to strategic planning and should be discussed with leaders prior to the annual strategy planning season. Leaders are leaders because they inspire and innovate, but their visions for the future should be informed by real data.
The cadence of review and adaptation causes strategy to become fluid. Strategic shifts feel less abrupt and often happen organically. Employees are better prepared and equipped for course corrections because they inform the strategic planning process. Leadership is better advised of deficits and opportunities because strategic discussions are not happening in a silo. This process mitigates the number of internal surprises. Quarterly review meetings provide leadership with the opportunity to course correct. Most importantly, this model empowers organizations to grow and adapt from one year to the next confidentially and seamlessly.