Insights

Enabling Decision-Making and Action: Adaptive Strategic Planning

July 15, 2019

In a rapidly changing environment, traditional strategic plans often fail—they are not flexible enough to adapt to dynamic change. The traditional approach to planning operates in stages, such as quarterly and annual reviews, and does not allow for iterations. With rapid and continual change, it can be challenging or even impossible to create a strategic plan that remains relevant.

Our LMI team overcame this challenge for a federal government customer who was experiencing constant change in organizational structure, leadership, and goals. To help this agency solve these challenges, LMI offered an approach to withstand the speed of change—adaptive strategic planning—a continuous process that applies vision development, strategic planning, and operational planning to create strategies for success in dynamic environments. An adaptive strategic plan enables organizations to understand their value to stakeholders, desired future state, and overall environment.

Before embarking on the adaptive planning model, organizations and leaders should create a value proposition to communicate both internally and externally. The value proposition should be compelling and describe the value an organization brings to its stakeholders, which aids in decision-making. In addition, any plan must have an end goal. Indicators of success help groups focus on what they are working toward and know they are on track to meet their goals. LMI’s adaptive strategic planning model offers four steps that enable decision-making and actions.

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Review the Environment

1. Review the Environment

By reviewing the emerging environment, organizations can seize the opportunity to consider major internal and external deviations that could lead to significant changes. While an organization is operating in an unsettled environment, there are ongoing changes that affect future priorities and strategies. Reviewing the environment is a way to track and record changes while ensuring organizational progress is made. Discussing these effects at monthly meetings enabled our customer to address them and move forward, thus taking control of the situation and how it influenced plans.

2. Adjust Priorities

Environmental changes can affect an organization’s priorities and strategies. Leaders should decide if the priorities are still relevant or require adjustment before proceeding to their action plans. Adjustment is one of the key differences from a typical strategic plan. Instead of continuing initiatives because they were in the initial plan, our customer made changes and put initiatives on hold if they were not relevant in the current environment.

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Adjust Priorities
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Create Action Plans

3. Create Action Plans

Once priorities and strategies are established or adjusted, create action plans. These short-term plans should span no more than 90 days. Action plans are clear and concise, and they contain achievable activities. By harnessing the power of swift wins, leaders keep employees engaged and motivated while progressing toward their strategic priorities. Our customer had initiatives that spanned a full year. Sometimes at the end of the year, these initiatives were no longer relevant because substantial changes had occurred. Through focusing efforts and committing to shorter timelines, employee work is recognized and valued, increasing engagement.

4. Implement

Implementation can begin once action plans have been created. Leaders should communicate to employees. To maintain adaptability, leaders meet on a monthly cadence to cycle through the model. Organizations can iterate the action plan often and adjust to the current and emerging environment. During the implementation phase, our customer’s leaders monitored and tracked the progress of their action plans and adjusted them through each iteration of the adaptive planning cycle.

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Implement

In traditional strategic planning, lower-level managers are required only to know their role and defend it. In contrast, with the adaptive model, all leaders and managers understand the larger strategy and value proposition that connects their role and their organization’s mission. Because adaptive planning is collaborative and continuous, discussions are held at all levels of leadership regarding ongoing efforts and ideas for future innovative activities. Adaptability requires organizations to hold monthly retrospectives. Through frequent face-to-face meeting, organizations increase collaboration and motivation among leaders and team members. Adaptive strategic planning creates a culture focused around innovation.

Through continuous iteration, small failures are corrected quickly, leading to more positive outcomes and unique solutions. Our customer now operates through a flexible model and has greater ongoing insight into the progress and performance of strategies. Using LMI’s adaptive strategic planning model, federal agencies become more efficient as they respond quickly to emerging environments, enhancing risk mitigation and enabling adaptable action plans.

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