The case for strategy and planning: Part 3 – Commit to a plan
Updated: Sep 21, 2020
In the last of this trio of blogs looking at the importance of strategy and planning in internal communications, I am discussing the critical role a good plan plays in goal achievement and value demonstration.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish”– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Where the strategy sets the direction and goals, a plan is the commitment to ensure their achievement. Planning allows you to break down seemingly large and complex tasks into smaller, more manageable activities that have better defined parameters and therefore making it is easier to identify the steps needed to accomplish your objectives.
Whereas a strategy is longer term (usually 3-5 years), a plan should cover a much shorter period. An annual plan allows you to plot your resource requirements in line with the organisation’s financial year and other activities, whilst also setting the cadence of your communications, ensuring a level of consistency across the year. This should also help increase effectiveness, as you can better regulate the levels of ‘noise’ being received by employees at any one time, giving your messages the best chance of getting through.
MAKING IT USEFUL
By providing an overview of the resources that will be required, you can make the necessary preparations, particularly if this involves the prior engagement of other departments. The IC team will be able to ensure the workloads are more evenly spread, and that various types of work are fairly or appropriately allocated (to those with the best skillset for the work, for example). I have always found that involving my teams in the planning process - getting their views on what they would like to work on, whether the workloads are realistic and ensuring everything is accounted for - is a great way to encourage them to take ownership of the plan, and therefore equally accountable for its success, rather than just imposing it upon them.
However, not all plans are created equal and creating the right plan is crucial. There is a fine balance to be struck between making it detailed enough to define clear, actionable tasks, and not allowing it to become so detailed it becomes unwieldy. My advice is, think about who will see your plan and what you need to do to make it either useful or useable for them.
ARE YOU MAKING PROGRESS?
A plan is a great way for teams to monitor progress and delivery. By scheduling monthly reviews, the team can assess what has been achieved, what is delayed and what is upcoming for the next month that needs to be prepared for. To make these reviews more valuable, use them as a basis for conversations about priorities and whether the plan needs to be adjusted to reflect shifting dynamics in the wider organisation, or beyond. It is important to note that any adjustment should always be made with reference to your strategy to ensure activity remains aligned to the achievement of objectives and is correctly prioritised.
“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable”– Dwight D. Eisenhower
Planning is as much about the process itself as the end product, and there is no such thing as a perfect plan, only a useful and useable one. Ongoing review of your plan offers the chance to reflect on the realities of execution – we all know how rarely a plan goes to plan!
When going ‘off plan’ your plan is a tangible touchstone to return back to and also assess how those unscheduled events may have affected the achievement of your objectives. You may even have the luxury of being able to identify this at the time, allowing you to make decisions on what needs to be prioritised, rescheduled, delegated etc. You will also gain insight into what is needed to make your plans more realistic in the future, developing contingencies if situations are likely to reoccur.
By tying your plan to measurement, you can regularly assess the effectiveness of your activities and ensure they are having the desired impact, tweaking them if a different approach is required. Your plan, along with your strategy, can form the basis of your reporting, giving visibility to your work and achievements across the wider organisation, and particularly to senior level decision makers in order to demonstrate the value of IC and influence budget and resource decisions. It is for this reason that a good strategy and plan is truly an invaluable asset for a successful internal communications team.
I’m interested to hear any views and experiences on these topics, so please feel free to leave a comment below. To receive alerts for when new blog posts are released, please provide your details below, or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.