How to Turn Your Plan from an After-Thought into an Engine

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Is your strategic plan an abandoned after-thought or an energizing engine?

A well-executed plan can be the engine that drives your organization forward, creating energy, focus and momentum.

But often it can simply become a forgotten after-thought, just collecting dust on a shelf.

So how do you turn your plan from an after-thought into an engine?

Years ago a leadership mentor taught me a simple yet profoundly effective tool to keep an organization aligned with its plan.

It’s a matrix that looks at each opportunity or idea and asks two basic questions:

Is this on plan?

Does this add value?

Take every proposed strategy or opportunity and see where it fits in this grid.

Box 1: Not on Plan and Adds no Value

It’s amazing how many organizations entertain ideas that are neither on plan nor which add any relevant value.

An example might be an opportunity for you to do a series of lectures for an outside organization.

Opportunities like this can be tempting, but leaders need the discipline to give them a wide berth.

Box 2: Not on Plan but Adds Value

This is a seductive box.

This represents opportunities that seem to be a good thing for the organization, but you didn’t plan for them. Unrestrained pursuit of such opportunities can leave the organization feeling rudderless and unfocused.

Leaders need the discernment to know when to leap at such an opportunity and the discipline not to abandon the plan each time such an opportunity comes along.

Box 3: On Plan but Adds no Value

Sometimes you’ll find that even an opportunity that fits under the umbrella of your plan turns out to be of limited value.

Have the discernment and courage to recognize elements of the plan that just aren’t pushing the ball down the field.

Box 4: On Plan and Adds Value

This is the sweet spot.

Relentlessly pursue opportunities that are in the center of your plan and which add tremendous value to what you’re trying to accomplish.

Bottom line; if an opportunity or idea is on plan and adds value, go for it. Otherwise, have the discipline to set it aside.

In doing so your plan can indeed shift from being an after-thought to being a powerful engine.

How do you keep focused on the plan?

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Global Leadership Network. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave, Willow & Olive and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.


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