Strategy is one of the most vital elements to planning a successful business approach. Consider this: a good strategy bridges goals, vision, values and operations management. As a result, you should be meticulous when the time comes to discuss it.

Probably fewer than half of the companies out there have a well-defined approach to strategic discussions. Furthermore, their approaches tend to be inflexible, which can be detrimental if the process contains flaws or shortcomings.

When you’re gearing up for a strategic gathering, consider the points below. They may help you get the most for your company out of the valuable time your group spends together.

When is the best time to revisit strategy?

This depends largely on your organisation and the nature of change in your field of business. Typically, strategists suggest meeting at least once a year, since this coincides well with finance and similar planning. It also provides enough time to bring the right people together, which may be difficult in large busy organisations.

If, however, you find that your company or field are prone to rapid changes, you may want to strategise more often. Be careful , though – strategy meetings take up a fair amount of time. Having them too often may involve committing more work hours than your business can manage.

Assuming a yearly strategy cycle, you can thus choose to plan it at some select times. Towards the end of the year may be a bit frantic, but if you’re in a field that quietens down before mid-December, it’s not a bad time to work strategy mojo at this time and refresh it early in the next year. Having the annual session at the start of the year is advantageous as it’s a natural time to set goals. Finally, doing so just after the financial year end means you’ll much more monetary data to use for your planning.

Involving the right stakeholders

Naturally, there are some people within a company who you should definitely not exclude from strategic planning sessions. Think of your management and directorate levels, as well as people involved in key business functions. They tend to be more involved in and aware of the longer view as well as the direction the company wishes to progress in.

By the same token, make sure to include those who have keen insight and valuable opinions regarding strategy. In many cases, real gems lie within individuals who aren’t necessarily at high or critical levels. You should set about determining who these individuals are and see what they can contribute. Offer them an opportunity to shine out, and they may well surprise you by doing so and exceeding your expectations.

Tips for an achievable strategy

Creating and planning for the most ambitious and lofty results can be tricky. Not to mention, you run the very real risk of feeling as though you’ve fallen far short when reality sets in.

For this reason, always ensure that the strategic goals you aim to achieve are achievable. Additionally, you should allow enough time for some of your processes to fail and be reworked. Finally, if you include a step-by-step listing of goals, you can manage your progression as multiple smaller successes. This has the added advantage of giving you a rough project outline for your strategy.

Bear in mind that the success of a strategy may also depend somewhat on your organisation’s ability to project targets. These include examples such as output, sales, development and churn, to name a few. The better and more experienced you are at these projections, the more realistic you can make your strategy goals. If you fall short in this area, it’s a good idea to mark it for improvement.

Avoid these at all costsCommon oversights

If your company has little experience in these types of planning sessions, consider a facilitator. There are organisations out there, ranging from management consultants to industrial psychologists and leadership advisors, who can expertly help you run strategy sessions. Outsourcing this function can take some of the strain of responsibility away. Furthermore, it opens you up to new approaches and processes you may not have previously considered.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to include your strategic vision and your company values! This cannot be emphasised enough. Planning strategy without a vision and without incorporating your values is doubly dangerous. Firstly, it paves a path without a desired endpoint and lacking direction. Secondly, you run the very real risk of losing corporate brand and identity. Your values and associated brand are core to your organisation, and very difficult to change or pull back once dissociated from.

The author is involved in strategic planning at Adept. Our values are ingrained into our strategy and we execute the plans towards our vision and goals with pride.