Any good chess player knows planning ahead is crucial to your success. Foresight, analysis and the ability to anticipate what is going to happen several moves before it does is how you’ll win your game.
A long-term vision, implemented in small steps and reviewed constantly. When we think about it like that, it’s not too dissimilar to business and how you should strategically plan. Setting goals and then reviewing them is key to achieving substantial business growth. Just look at the likes of Apple or Amazon - companies known for long-term strategic planning.
Bringing the same focus as some of the world’s largest companies into your board meetings is how you can ensure you keep across everything that’s happening, respond to sudden changes and adjust course if need be. Let’s look at how you can do it.
Understanding strategic planning
The first question we have to ask before we even think about your board meetings is what is strategic planning? It’s the process of defining a company's direction and making decisions on allocating its resources to follow that goal.
It involves more than just setting long-term goals. You need to identify all the steps to achieve your target and then regularly review progress by, for example, checking in with your team, to make sure your company stays on track. Think of it like a map that guides you to your destination. If you don't know where you're going, how will you ever get there?
It’s important you understand how strategic planning is different from your operational planning on a day-to-day basis. While the latter focuses on getting tasks done, strategic planning is more about defining what those tasks are in the first place. It's the big-picture that’s looking several steps ahead and keeping you adaptable.
How to add it to your board meetings
So, we understand what strategic planning is but how do we successfully incorporate it into your board meetings? Here are some things to think about:
Make it a core part of your agenda. Reviewing your progress is crucial - especially when you're dealing with the board who makes big decisions. Add a review of your strategic plan high up in your meeting agenda to get everyone’s take on how it’s progressing and if there are any changes that need to be made.
Have enough time. Make sure to allocate enough time to go through everything you’ve set out in your strategic plan. Not only that, but you should have time to deep dive into specific areas that aren’t performing as well as you expected. A productive meeting may take several hours, even days, so make a poll and find enough time for everyone on your top team.
Have the right people. Board meetings are where you make decisions, so make sure the people to help you do that are there. C-level, senior leaders, department heads or anyone else who will help you get decision-making over the line. Don’t invite people that don’t need to be there but also try to have a diverse group so you can think of things creatively.
Don’t be scared to get out of the office. Strategic planning is the foundation you’re building your whole business on, so don’t be scared to have it as an off-site. Consider taking the board away for a few days or so to get away from distractions and plan ahead.
The benefits it will bring
Incorporating strategic planning into your board meetings should bring about instant benefits. Here are just a few you can expect:
Better decisions. By taking the time to think strategically and constantly reviewing those choices, you’ll find that when it comes to difficult decisions you’ll be in a far better position to make them. You’ll have all the information you need and be able to weigh up all the pros and cons without having to make a stab in the dark.
Increased efficiency. With strategic planning, your board will all get a chance to contribute. This is going to massively increase the likelihood of your executive team collaborating effectively. You’re much more likely to eliminate confusion about your goals and where the company’s priorities are.
Better communication. Strategic planning in your board meetings forces your team to speak to each other. Whether that’s them planning for the meeting or discussing a particular priority, communication is going to ensure nothing important is missed and issues can be acted on quickly.
A motivated team. If everyone has a clear understanding of what the company wants to achieve, has participated in getting there and is able to provide feedback on the process, they’re going to feel more driven to achieve success. A buy-in from your board is going to be crucial to getting the results you want.
Learn from experience: How Amazon own strategic planning
Amazon is a great example of how if you embrace strategic planning in your board meetings you can achieve great success. Starting as an online bookstore, it’s now one of the largest companies in the world.
CEO Jeff Bezos famously said: “If you don't have a plan, you become part of someone else's plan." He is known for ensuring that Amazon’s board meetings regularly review long-term goals, financial performance and the progress of ongoing projects. This is how decisions can be made quickly to changing circumstances that have helped Amazon stay profitable - even when the world’s economy and other large companies haven’t fared as well.
If you want to achieve success and grow your business the way Amazon did, take a leaf out of Jeff Bezos’ book and bring strategic planning into your board meetings.