The ABCs of Strategic Planning In-house

A few years ago, I hired (and continue to consult with) professional organizer and owner of Organize for Success Emily Parks to advise me on ways to become more productive and efficient. This month, Emily will share more insights shared with me in one of our recent one-on-one sessions. Enjoy!

EdEd: Happy New Year, Emily! As you know, many folks are taking a look back at 2014 and evaluating their professional (and personal) successes and failures. It was an incredibly busy year for my team. Quite honestly, without your insightful organizational tips, we would not have completed all those client-driven tasks each day without our hair spontaneously combusting into a massive blaze.

Joking aside, I hate making resolutions, but I couldn’t help thinking that it was time to evaluate the effectiveness of my department’s strategic plan and possibly develop a new direction in 2015. Our original plan was developed several years ago to supercharge my team and align our department goals with those of our organization.

You work with many leaders as both their professional organizer and coach. What are your thoughts on strategic planning and what tips can you share with in-house managers who are thinking about developing or revising a strategic plan for their teams and departments?


emily parks Emily: Great question, Ed! I still believe that if you begin each day with a list of 3 to 5 tasks based on priorities, you’re more likely to stay focused and get those items completed. On the contrary, if you wait to determine what tasks must be done as your day unfolds, the phone rings, someone will stop by your office with a request, and emergencies will blaze into your inbox; causing you to be pulled in many different unfocused directions. It is less likely that you’ll make any significant headway in completing all of those types of tasks.

When looking at the focus of your department or company in its entirety, the situation is very similar: without a specific plan, I find that teams are at the whim of others’ wants, needs and priorities, hence strategic planning is so vital for business success.

A strategic plan is a formalized road map or game plan, providing a sense of direction and outlining measurable goals, whether organization-wide or focused on a major function, such as a division or department. Often, a strategic plan specifies that entity’s vision, mission, core values, goals and objectives for one, two, three or even five years. I often encourage clients, like you, to begin strategic planning with the completion of a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis is an in-depth examination of internal strengths and weaknesses as well as external opportunities and threats. Once you know your SWOT, it’s easier to determine the components of your strategic plan.

As you know, Ed, having a strategic plan empowers, prioritizes, and focuses the time, energy and resources of everyone on your team in the same direction and fuels desired results. I’ve found that one of the most effective ways in which this occurs would be through the core values. While it is important for team members to fulfill the elements in their job descriptions, it is equally important for those same team members to exhibit the core values included in the strategic plan. Likewise, the strategic plan drives results when its listed objectives are SMART, meaning specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-related; goals define a team’s mindset by establishing the desired destination while objectives establish the specific steps needed to reach those goals. A goal is a broad, primary outcome, and an objective is a measurable step taken to use available tactics for achieving set strategies, hence why the SMART approach is so imperative for success.

Here are some best practices that I’d like in-house managers to consider when developing a strategic plan in-house. Ed refers to them as the ABCs of strategic planning:

  1. Start by asking each member of your team to independently list what each views as internal strengths and weaknesses as well as external opportunities and threats, preventing any bias from others’ ideas; then, determine which to utilize for the strategic plan by seeing where there might be overlaps.
  2. Be sure to include feedback from everyone on the team when management defines the vision, mission, core values, goals and objectives. No one can have their eyes and ears everywhere so insights from others can be very valuable.
  3. Look to what personality traits make your most successful team members so successful and incorporate those in the listed core values; meanwhile, consider what elements were present in individuals that were unsuccessful as part of your team, and list core values that resolve such issues.
  4. Utilize the SMART approach, and make certain objectives outlined in your strategic plan are specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-related.


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About Emily Parks
Emily Parks, owner of Organize for Success, is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers & the Institute for Challenging Disorganization as well as a graduate of the Institute for Professional Organizers. With a background in automotive marketing and college sports operations, Emily provides confidential, one-on-one consulting (in-person or via Skype) and team training, helping you increase efficiency, boost productivity, accomplish more in less time, quickly locate what you need when you need it and maximize your physical space for optimal output.