; a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.

When it comes to strategy, a lot of businesses use their year-end as an opportunity to reflect and set out their plans for the following year. While I agree that this is a great time to reflect and plan for the year ahead, I want to explain why a one-off exercise isn’t gonna cut it as well as highlight some useful building blocks for creating a solid strategic plan to get you closer to your goals.

Set SMART goals


Strategy drives decisions. Every decision made by businesses should take into consideration whether it takes them closer to or further from their overall goals so it’s important that you have clearly defined goals. I’m not bringing anything new to the party when I say be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timebound) about the goals you set but it is still worth highlighting. 


The main one for me here is measurable! If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. 


By focussing on measurable metrics, you can essentially work backwards and understand what output is required to hit your targets. 


For example, if I currently get 1 new client for every 10 proposals sent, to get 10 new clients, I either need to send 100 proposals or I can look at ways of improving my conversion rate.

Write them down


This one is short and sweet. People that write down their goals are between 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to achieve those goals than those that don’t write them down. Please please please don’t just internalise your ambitions. Write them down, shout them from the rooftop and you’ll be more likely to realise your goals.

Break it down


So you’ve set your goals. Now what? Well, these goals can feel intimidating given the magnitude of what you aim to achieve and this is often the reason why many fail. Set yourself up for success by reverse engineering your goals into smaller more manageable milestones.


Then break each milestone down into daily tasks and habits. It takes an average of 66 days for an action to become a habit so start small and add one at a time. Small differences elicit great changes when they are repeatedly performed so be consistent.


| “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

Revisit your goals


Revisiting your goals is important but so too is the frequency with which you do this. There is little point in setting annual targets and then only checking in on them in a years time. Reflect on a quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily basis. 


When you revisit your goals, it gives you an opportunity to celebrate the little wins, evaluate your current strategy and assess how to move forward. Be honest with yourself and ask, have you been doing what you said you would? What could you improve? Are your daily actions taking you closer to or further from your goals?


Remember that your current position is less important than your trajectory so if you’re doing a lot of front-loaded work and you believe it will pay off in the long run then stick with it.


Don’t fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy though – just because you’ve invested a lot of time, effort and money into your current plan shouldn’t be reason enough to stick with it. If it’s not working, adapt the plan. You’ve already lost that time, effort and money so don’t expend even more unnecessarily.


| “If the plan doesn’t work change the plan but never the goal”

Be accountable


Humour me for a minute and think about a Formula 1 team. A Formula One driver is only one member* of a huge team (*there are 2 drivers in every team) employing hundreds of people, including the Team Boss, Aerodynamics team, Design team, Engineers, Commercial team and many more. A standard Formula One season will comprise of 20 Grand Prix races (+/- a couple). I’ll not mention the 2020 season! ????


Sure, they’ll have a plan for the entire season but they’ll revisit their plan regularly and assess how they are doing against their goals and what needs to happen in order to achieve them. From qualifiers to practice laps to the race itself, the ‘back office’ team are in the driver’s ear (literally) advising on what is happening on other parts of the course, when to make a pit stop, how their competitors are doing etc. That constant feedback loop is everpresent even when things are going to plan, or maybe everything goes to plan because of the constant feedback. 


Regardless, this means the success of the driver and the wider team is not down to the driver alone. To execute their plan, an F1 team requires a huge amount of teamwork and every individual is accountable for the overall success of the team. Likewise, in a business, a specific department or individual person isn’t the sole reason for the success of the business. Everyone has their strengths so by playing to them and striving for a shared company-wide goal, everyone is accountable and more importantly, everyone is valued.


| “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack”

Make adjustments


Every call, every meeting, every project you complete, take a minute to evaluate the good and the bad. What did you do well and what could you improve? Get your wider team involved in this too – a fresh perspective could prove invaluable. 


The same way that Lewis Hamilton (other Formula 1 drivers are available) will receive feedback throughout every race, every lap, every corner he turns, we too should be evaluating our performance and making adjustments as we go.

Basically, what I’m saying is in order to execute your strategy well, you need commitment from the entire team. So, this year when you plan for the year ahead and set your goals, make sure everyone in your organisation is aware of them. Write them down so you and the team are reminded of them daily. Revisit them often and don’t be afraid to change tact if your original plan doesn’t work.