“No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” – Helmuth von Moltke
The words of 19th-century Prussian field marshal, Helmuth von Moltke, are as true in business as in warfare. No matter how well-crafted your strategic plan may be, it will inevitably encounter unforeseen challenges and obstacles, so tracking and updating your plan is essential. It’s not cast in stone.
By monitoring your progress on an ongoing basis and making necessary changes along the way, you can ensure that your business stays on course and remains competitive in an ever-changing landscape.
Over the past weeks, as part of our exploration into “Strategy and Planning,” we’ve delved into crafting a three-year strategic plan, the pivotal roles of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), the critical influence of boards in shaping strategy, and the importance of developing a strategic roadmap. This week, we dive into the crucial process of tracking and updating your plan.
Why Tracking and Updating Your Plan Is Critical
There are several reasons why tracking and updating your plan is critical to the success of your business:
It Helps You Stay Focused on Your Goals – When you’re working towards a long-term goal, it’s easy to get sidetracked by day-to-day distractions. By tracking your progress regularly, you can stay focused on what matters most and avoid getting bogged down by minor setbacks.
It Enables You to Identify Potential Problems Early On – By monitoring your progress regularly, you can identify potential problems before they become major issues. This allows you to take corrective action early on and avoid more significant problems down the line.
It Helps You Adapt to Changing Circumstances – As we’ve already established, no plan is foolproof. By tracking your progress regularly, you can identify areas where your plan may need adjustment based on changing circumstances or new information.
It Keeps Your Team Aligned and Accountable – When everyone on your team knows what they’re working towards and how their efforts contribute to the overall goal, they’re more likely to stay motivated and engaged. Regular tracking and updates help keep everyone aligned and accountable for their contributions.
The Unpredictable Business Landscape
The business world is a battleground where unforeseen challenges, opportunities, and market shifts constantly emerge. Your meticulously crafted strategic plan might be flawless on paper, but it’s just the beginning of the journey. The real test lies in your ability to adapt, improvise, and overcome the obstacles that will inevitably arise.
Consider, for example:
- Market Dynamics: The competitive landscape evolves, consumer preferences change, and technology advances at breakneck speed. To stay relevant, you must align your plan with these shifts.
- Economic Fluctuations: Economic downturns, recessions, and global or regional crises can disrupt even the most well-thought-out strategies. You need the flexibility to pivot in response.
- Customer Needs: As your business grows, so do your customers’ needs. Adapting to meet these evolving demands is essential to sustain and expand your customer base.
- Operational Efficiency: Improvements in operations and supply chain management can lead to cost savings and competitive advantages. Ignoring these opportunities can be costly.
- Regulatory Changes: Government policies and regulations can impact your industry significantly. Maintaining compliance and anticipating regulatory changes is critical.
- Emerging Trends: Trends like sustainability, remote work, and e-commerce can reshape industries. Staying attuned to these shifts can position your business for success.
Keeping on top of these will ensure you can adapt your plans to suit the changing landscape and still achieve your long-term goals. It isn’t about scrapping your initial vision, but about making sure that vision remains attainable in the face of changing circumstances.
Best Practices for Tracking and Updating Your Plan
Now that we’ve established why tracking and updating your plan is critical let’s explore some best practices for doing so effectively:
- Establish a Regular Review Schedule
To ensure that you’re tracking your progress regularly, establish a review schedule that works for your team. This could be weekly, monthly, or quarterly depending on the nature of your business and the goals you’re working towards.
- Define Clear Metrics for Success
To track your progress effectively, you need to define clear metrics for success. This is where your roadmap, with the OKRs and KPIs comes into focus. Continuously monitor your KPIs and OKRs. Are they still relevant, or should they be modified to reflect current realities?
- Use Data to Inform Your Decisions
When reviewing your progress, use data to inform your decisions. This could include sales figures, customer, supplier and staff feedback, updated competitor analyses, market data, and other relevant metrics and changes to the landscape that help you understand how well you’re progressing towards your goals.
- Do Scenario Planning
At least quarterly, update your scenario planning, considering the data you’ve gathered and, with the team, looking at how this impacts your various possible scenarios, from best-case to worst-case. Understanding the possible risks and have contingency plans in place can be a lifesaver for your business in times of crisis.
- Be Willing to Adapt Your Plan as Needed
As we’ve already established, no plan is foolproof. Be willing to adapt your plan as needed based on changing circumstances or new information that comes to light. Consider, too, the impact of new technologies that can enhance your operations and competitiveness, or may be encouraging new market entrants not previously considered. Being technologically up to date is crucial in today’s business landscape.
- Communicate Regularly and Openly with Your Entire Team
Finally, communicate regularly with your entire team about your progress towards your goals – including all in the update process. Actively encourage an environment where open discussions, questions and constructive criticisms are encouraged. This helps keep everyone aligned and motivated towards achieving success.
As Helmuth von Moltke said, “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” In the dynamic world of business, your strategic plan is your battle plan, and the ever-changing landscape is the “enemy.” Your ability to track and adapt your plan is what separates successful businesses from those that stagnate or fail.
By staying focused on your goals, identifying potential problems early on, adapting to changing circumstances, keeping everyone aligned and accountable, defining clear metrics for success, establishing a regular review schedule, using data to inform decisions, being willing to adapt as needed, and communicating regularly and openly with your team about progress towards goals – you can ensure that you stay competitive in an ever-changing landscape.
Adaptability is not a sign of weakness but a testament to your business’s strength and resilience. It’s a demonstration of your capacity to learn, grow, and succeed despite the inevitable challenges that arise.
So, embrace the unpredictability of the business world, and use it as an opportunity to refine your strategy, engage your team and board, and chart a path toward continued growth and success.
Is your business equipped to track and adapt its strategic plan? Share your experiences and insights in the comments below.
If you’d like learn more on this topic, the following articles and posts might be of interest.
Other articles in this month’s focus on Strategy and Planning:
- Crafting a Three-Year Strategic Plan: The Roadmap to Success
- The Role of OKRs and KPIs in Strategic Planning
- Boards Shape Strategy – The Critical Role of Governance in Business Success
- Developing a Strategic Roadmap – Guiding Your Business Towards Success
- “If there’s one thing that’s certain in business, it’s uncertainty.” – Stephen Covey
- “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” – Zig Ziglar
- “There is nothing permanent except change.” – Heraclitus
- 4 Ways Your Strategy Plans Could Be Derailed
- Planning to De-Risk Your Business Against Future Threats
- How Resilient is Your Business? Preparing for Risk.
- Leading Your Business Successfully in a VUCA World
- Pointers to a Successful Future for Your Business
- “The future belongs to those who plan for it.” – Jim Moran
- “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight Eisenhower
- “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln
Harvard Business: 5 Keys to Successful Strategy Execution
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