How To: Optimise Your Quarterly Strategic Planning & Management Reviews

“In business, the idea of measuring what you’re doing, picking the measurements that count like customer satisfaction and performance… you thrive on that.” - Bill Gates

We’re continuing our series of how-to's with an overview of your strategic planning, and your management review techniques. We’ll be covering the who, the what, and refine exactly what the change you’re seeking to make is, so you can optimise your organisational skills.

If you’re more receptive to video content, rather than the written form, check out our Youtube video.

One of the tips we mention in our video on the topic is to consider the effective frequency of these meetings; how often you’re having them. You want to get on top of your numbers in a frequency that’s short enough for you to make some changes, but still track you and keep you on your journey to your goals, but you need to be careful not to overwhelm your staff.

Having too many meetings is a sign you’re having inefficient meetings.

Another consideration with the frequency of these meetings is to make sure you don’t try to achieve too much following a meeting. Without doubt, you need to aim high, but there’s no need to set a thousand goals if you’re struggling to allocate resources, and are likely to meet only a small list of these items. It’s more effective for you and the team to agree upon a concise list of agenda items to return to for the next meeting.

The core objective of management review is to put all your inputs together, your: progression tracking analytics, how you’re tracking toward your goals, and your outputs. It’s about readjusting resource management - time, money and people - and we adjust those as the market changes, or when our client’s requirements change; you need to remain adaptable.

You want to finish that review feeling as though you’ve achieved something, so make sure that you spend some time before the meeting preparing some key agenda items. Be cautious not to be overzealous here, as it’s common to list too many, and mismanage your time. A good rule of thumb is to have a list three of your biggest ‘rocks’ - those pressing issues that need to be solved in a time sensitive manner - atop your agenda.

Who’s it for? Everyone, of course, but the great thing about strategic planning meetings and utilising a management review is that the business as a whole will benefit. Regardless of how long you’ve been in operation, there’s no such thing as absolute perfection, due to the dynamic nature of business. Every business - every individual - can improve, and we’re a firm believer of embracing that spirit of improving every day. It’s for those members of the executive team, those people that have the power of autonomy, to go off and lead their respective parts of the business to come together and work on solutions that are going to be innovative, integrated and effective in achieving goals in the future.

More specifically, we’re looking to fine-tune the leadership skills of the executive and management teams, who have a vital role in encouraging a culture of efficiency and high morale for the rest of the team. One of our top tips here for leaders involved in that meeting is to always speak last. What we mean by that is to put the question out there: ‘How can we solve this problem of our ice creams melting before they reach the supermarket’s freezers?’ And then go around the table listening to everyone’s input before you go adding your two-cents. The method in the madness here is that if you were to speak first, there’s a possibility you’ll bias the input from others at the table that may have a better suggestion than you, but for a number of reasons doesn’t want to undermine a leader’s position.

What’s it for? Quite simply, it’s to keep everyone in your staff on top of your goals and strategic outlook for the coming weeks and months, for your short-term goals, and the years to come in your wider-scoped goals. You want to be able to achieve short term goals, put all of your inputs together, and adjust your resources to optimise the systems - and people - that can make that happen. Having the opportunity to assemble all the important pieces of your business’ puzzle - your executive team - in the same room, solving the same problem is invaluable, so remember to use that time.

It's the time to make sure everyone's on the same page, working to achieve a common goal.

So, what change are we seeking to make here? Regardless of the scope of your operations, the goal here remains the same. You’re hoping to monitor and measure the changes that you’ve implemented following previous strategic meetings, and implement new, improved systems that your quality management system is either suggesting, or requiring. You want your executive team to feel as though you’ve established your direction, as well as your key goals to check back in on for the next strategic review. If you leave your management review meeting with just a few key goals to check back in on, you’re embracing that spirit of the plan-do-check-act cycle, and you’ll be more able to get a handle on what’s working in your business, and more importantly, what’s not.

Having regular - but not too regular - strategic planning sessions is an essential part of keeping atop the dynamic business landscape. You need to be prepared to do your research beforehand to come into that meeting and have a robust discussion about how different teams in the business are going to work together to achieve the goals of the business. Keep your conversations on track and extract all the value from your participants you can. If you put all this together, you’ll be able to come up with a plan, a number of goals and things to measure that you can execute following that meeting, to get better results from your business.

You’ll be firmly on the track toward continual improvement.

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