Delivering strategic plans under time constraints

Q4 can be overwhelming

Autumn is finally here, the leaves are turning and I start anticipating the Christmas holiday season. It is a time of hope and anticipation, more so this year given the last eighteen months that we have all experienced.

From a business perspective however, it is a period often fraught with stress, tight deadlines, and in the age of zero-based budgeting, the pressure to utilise unspent budgets.

The demand on our time is further compounded by the need to refresh annual or three-year strategic plans. While this is essential, balancing what is in front of you, while also thinking about the future can be overwhelming.

The lack of time and resources means that there is a tendency to default to the previous years’ strategy, conduct a quick post-mortem and create slightly tweaked versions of previous plans. And this means that at best, strategies lack inspiration or foresight and at worst, end up being poorly matched to goals or even incomplete.

It doesn’t have to feel this way

You are not alone. We feel the pressure of this period as an agency, as do our clients across countries and sectors.

Unfortunately, the run up to the end of year does continue at pace, and new resource is rarely available. Delivering inspirational strategies under these constraints is a reality we must accept and operate under.

Over the last few years, we have had the privilege to support clients who have come to us with precisely these needs. We’ve learnt that you need two things to succeed:

  • Pragmatism: An ability to deliver against tight deadlines with an unflappable attitude in the face of uncertainty, ambiguity and changing stakeholder needs.
  • Process: A systematic yet adaptable process that can be flexed based on the time and resources available to you while ensuring the strategy created is inspirational.

With the right mindset, and process, you can get to strong strategic plans and outcomes.

Bringing rigour with empathy

Three principles that are the bedrock of our approach to help:

1 / Start right

Defining the challenge and breaking it down into its component parts at the very start is essential. We have a suite of consultancy tools to define the job at hand to ensure that everyone in the business is comfortable with the direction we are headed in.

2 / Embrace agility

We often adapt the sprint approach for the virtual world to ensure there is less pressure on time. We guide clients when it comes to forming the right team and the right environment for an agile strategy creation workshop.

3 / Demonstrate empathy

Being empathetic to key stakeholders and the broader organisation is fundamental, particularly at times of stress and fast approaching deadlines. We find ourselves relying on the Empathy Map to support this. It helps identify mental and cognitive biases while at the same time providing a shared understanding of the challenge, the needs and goals and the different behavioural triggers and barriers we need to work with.

Closing thoughts

Times like this don’t have to be overwhelming. There are tools and processes available that can help to create strategic plans that can inspire and empower you and your teams.

To help you, we have provided links to specific tools that you can deploy below.

Strategy creation workshop: An overview of a sprint style workshop and how to build the appropriate team.

Challenge sheet and workplan: Tools to help define the challenge, get alignment, and develop a focused workplan.

Empathy mapping: A tool that can help understand individual stakeholder challenges especially under pressured environments.