- Once you have your current state analysis, Mike shares how you can kick off a strategic plan (5:50)
- Mike and Tracy talk about why Vision, Mission and Values are the key to aligning your teams and delivering exceptional customer experiences (10:45)
- How can you build Strategic Objectives to help your organization make sure you have a solid foundation to serve your clients, members and customers (16:05)
- Learn more about how TEAMES & CO can support your organization’s growth with our management consulting services.
- Follow TEAMES & CO on Facebook LinkedIn, Twitter (@teamesandco) and Instagram (@teamesandco)
- Want to watch the podcasts on video? Visit TEAMES & CO on YouTube.
Our podcast is edited by Nodderly. A huge thank you to their team for the great video, audio and editing support!
Listen to Episode 28
Episode 28 Transcript
Tracy Eames (00:04):
Hi everybody. We are excited to share the news of our launch of TEAMES Global, our online learning platform. We've been hearing from our clients that they would like an accessible and approachable way to continue to develop their skills. That's what TEAMES Global is. TEAMES Global brings together the pillars of TEAMES & CO. So it helps you learn more about delivering an exceptional customer experience, building an aligned and ambitious strategy, and most importantly, empowering your teams. Together all of these courses will help you and your organization accelerate your growth. We look forward to welcoming you to one of our TEAMES Global courses, and hope that you sign up for updates. Visit teamesandco.com to sign up for updates, or you can follow TEAMES Global on social media. We have a LinkedIn group where leaders can share their best practices. We're also on Facebook and Instagram if you have any questions for us. We look forward to having you as a student soon. Welcome to TEAMES Global.
Tracy Eames (01:26):
Hey everybody. Welcome to Building Teams, with TEAMES & CO. We are back today with a Building Teams episode, and talking about bridging the gap with strategic planning. Hey Mike.
Mike Vaggalis (01:43):
Tracy, how are you today doing well?
Tracy Eames (01:45):
Doing well. Doing well. It's getting to be summertime. So I'm enjoying a little bit more time outdoors and enjoying the sunshine. How about you?
Mike Vaggalis (01:53):
Yeah, same. Trying to get out and stretch the legs whenever I can. So it is so nice that, yeah, it's getting to be summer. Really, really excited. Do you have any fun summer plans coming up?
Tracy Eames (02:04):
Yeah, mostly my pup and I, we've been hiking a bunch this spring and summer. So we're taking a little bit of a break, just giving her a little bit of a rest. But there's tons of great hiking. For anybody who's been to North Carolina, you know there's a great state parks, great county parks. So we've been trying to get out and enjoy a little bit of the outdoor air. And again, kind of get out after the winter time, and see the sunshine a little bit on some of these great hiking trails.
Mike Vaggalis (02:33):
Yeah. What are some of your favorites, Tracy?
Tracy Eames (02:35):
Oh, gosh. There's a lot here in North Carolina. I'll give you a couple from different spots in the state. Over in the RTP area, a fan favorite, I think is the Umstead State Park. There's a lot of different types of trails. There's lots of different entrances so it doesn't get too crowded, which is great. And then also over on the Western side, if you go to Pisgah National Forest, again, tons of trails. There's lots of elevation changes. You're in the mountains over there so great scenery, great views. So those are a couple of my favorites here in North Carolina. How about you, Mike? What are your plans for the summertime?
Mike Vaggalis (03:12):
Yeah. Like you, just trying to get out as much as possible. I live here in Raleigh. Yeah. I love Umstead. I love going over to Durham, and doing some hiking on the Eno River over there. Love going for runs around Shelley Lake or Lake Lynn. But I'm originally from Colorado. So I'm really, really looking forward to a backpacking trip with my dad out in Colorado in June. So that'll be really fun. We actually have gone on a trip every year since I was five, a backpacking trip. So really looking forward to continuing on the tradition, and hopefully going fly fishing out in Colorado, and catching some trout. My dad and I, we're just in the planning process right now. We're thinking about our route, and we're thinking about the food that we're going to carry and how we're going to divvy up all the equipment.
Mike Vaggalis (04:02):
You have to be pretty strategic when you're backpacking. You don't want to carry more than you need, but you definitely want to make sure you have enough. So you could say that we are entering a strategic plan for our backpacking process. And that reminded me about our conversation today, where we're jumping into a conversation about how organizations can execute strategic plans sort of similar to backpacking trips. So wanted to get your thoughts, Tracy. That was sort of a stretch for a transition.
Tracy Eames (04:38):
I love the transitions. Those are my favorite part of the podcast.
Mike Vaggalis (04:44):
I'll keep them coming.
Tracy Eames (04:47):
It's a good point, right? I think whenever we are doing something important to us, it's important to plan. And so strategic planning, we covered a few weeks ago current state analysis, which is typically kind of the first step of a strategic plan. You can obviously do a current state analysis, and then not jump into a strategic plan, right? Because you might figure out that, okay, we don't really need to make too many major changes.
Tracy Eames (05:10):
But every few years, typically people have their strategic planning cycle on a three to five year kind of timeframe. We have noticed recently, and Mike, I know you can attest to this as well, folks trying to kind of shorten that timeframe, right? Things are changing so quickly these days that a five-year plan sometimes just doesn't make a lot of sense for an organization. So strategic planning is one of those things that you want to kind of have a more regular cadence of. And it's really just, how do we, as an organization, make sure that we have clear goals and a clear vision of where we want to go in the future, and then how we're going to get there together as a team.
Tracy Eames (05:48):
So Mike, we typically start off obviously on the current state analysis, but after that, after we kind of know where we are, we usually jump kind of who we are and the why behind the organization. So we go through that first step of vision, mission, values, making sure we all understand our shared purpose, how we're delivering value to the customer. So maybe you could just chat a little bit, tell our listeners a little bit about how we go through that process to make sure the organization has that clear purpose, and why that's so important.
Mike Vaggalis (06:19):
Yeah, definitely. And it's funny on the first engagement that I had with a TEAMES & CO and client, it was interesting. I really thought that the vision, mission, values, guiding principles was going to be really easy. I studied finance, and I've always looked at sort of those guiding statements as being important, but going through the whole process, I didn't realize until then how truly foundational those are. And it is way harder to develop really strong guiding statements than I realized.
Mike Vaggalis (06:52):
So I'll put that out there just first and foremost, as somebody who at one point would've said, oh my gosh, those are sort of fluffy. How do organizations use them? They are super easy. Why do organizations think so hard about them? They're overthinking it. And going through the process now, I don't know how many times, it is a much more nuanced, complicated process than I had originally thought. And they really are the building blocks for a really strong strategic plan. So it's important to get right.
Mike Vaggalis (07:24):
The process generally starts by looking at what statements has your organization developed already. And going through and working in your current state analysis, you will have gained a lot of data from stakeholders, both internal and external stakeholders, to say whether or not those current guiding statements really resonate. And you're looking particularly for a couple of things. So first of all, the vision statement is meant to be really longterm aspirational. You still probably want to quantify it, but it's much larger in scale. It's something that an organization may never accomplish, should never accomplish, because the scale is that large.
Mike Vaggalis (08:06):
Now let's just take a brief second and define what these guiding statements are. There are terms that many of us have heard before, and it can be sort of confusing, right? What's a vision statement? What's a mission statement? I don't know. They sound sort of the same. Well, a vision statement, you want to think about as being really long range and very, very aspirational. So it's something that the organization should always be striving towards. So even if you make monumental progress every year, it's still an aspirational statement.
Mike Vaggalis (08:35):
So you'll see many vision statements, for instance, that talk about delivering something for every person on the planet. Okay. Well, it's really, really hard for any organization to deliver a product, for instance, for every person on the planet. But it's a long-term goal. It's very aspirational. And that the organization can move towards. So a vision statement serves really like the north star of the organization.
Mike Vaggalis (08:59):
The mission statement then gets a little bit more tactical. So this is a mission that you have that your organization can make substantial progress towards. And it really defines more how your organization will deliver that value. So it's a little bit more granular, and it talks more specifically about the actions that the company will take to work towards the vision statement.
Mike Vaggalis (09:23):
So after the mission statement, you really want to define your organizational values. And typically an organization will have about four to six values, and these define how the organization really operates and really what they stand for. So values like honesty, integrity. These are the things that your organization is going to truly use to say, are we acting with integrity? Are we acting with honesty? And if those are the things that your organization defines as your values, you cannot transgress those. So picking out the values your organization will operate by is a difficult process, because you really need to go through and ask yourself the question are these things that we can actually live by? And if the answer is no, then it's probably not a strong organizational value.
Mike Vaggalis (10:13):
And then finally we conclude with the values and the guiding principles of an organization. These really define how your organization operates. And it's really sort of the ethos of your organization. It's a challenging process to define these because what we found is you really have to work with the leadership team as defining these statements, and say, do we always 100% of the time, for instance, act with integrity? Or do we always act honestly? And those can be really challenging questions for an executive team. But if the answer is that, no, you can't always, then you really do need to probably redefine your values as statements that you do live into every day.
Tracy Eames (10:57):
Yeah, Mike, to your original point, these foundational statements are what glues the entire organization together, right? They're going to give us all that shared purpose and that shared why. And so we want to know why we're doing what we're doing, why is that so important to our customers, and then how as an organization, are we going to live into our values and guiding principles and deliver that value in a meaningful way for both our customers and for ourselves? So super important. It's definitely got to be the first step. If you're not aligned on your vision, mission, and values, it's going to be virtually impossible to get aligned on everything else, right? And so that's why it's such an important first step.
Tracy Eames (11:35):
Once you have them, the exciting news is now you get to move on to your customers, right? You've talked about your vision and your mission. Those are all about how you're delivering value to your customers. But now what you want to dive into as part of your strategic planner, are who are your customers at a more detailed level, right? So you're going to talk about customer personas. If you want some tips about customer personas, we actually have a free resource on our website. You can go and download an example of how to make a customer persona. It's basically just how would you describe your core customers? Where do they get their information? What keeps them up at night? What are some of their challenges? What are you providing in terms of values?
Tracy Eames (12:14):
It's those psychographic pieces of information around what they find important. What are their hobbies? What are their interests? All of the things that help you as an organization understand who they are and what's important to them. So as you get into the next part of this strategic plan, again, you're able to understand, okay, how am I delivering value to my customers? So that next piece of the puzzle, kind of step two, is saying, okay, now that we know and we've got this vision and mission, now we need to say, okay, who are we delivering that value to? We're going to map out our customers, and we're going to map out what's valuable to them.
Tracy Eames (12:50):
From there, the fun begins, right? So now we start to lay out how we're going to do that. We do that through kind of strategic imperatives and objectives. So I'll turn it back to you, Mike, and you can talk through a little bit about how we go about the process of making sure the organization has that traditional kind of what people usually think when they think strategic plan, how do they have those action items, and those kinds of imperatives and objectives to guide them?
Mike Vaggalis (13:17):
Yeah, definitely. So it all goes back to the current state analysis. That's how you define your customer persona. From that data, you will adjust your guiding statements. And once you have all those, and you have a really crystal clear view of who your customer is, and what they value and what they want, and how your organization is working to serve them, the next step is to define what we call the strategic imperatives.
Mike Vaggalis (13:40):
And the strategic imperatives are imperatives that you're saying the organization must accomplish over the next three to five years. And to Tracy's point, we've seen a trend where more organizations are using more three year strategic plans rather than longer five year strategic plans in order to progress the organization towards their mission or vision. So strategic imperatives are very, very customer focused.
Mike Vaggalis (14:05):
So depending on the things that your customer values, a strategic imperative may be we're going to serve our customer by launching a new product type, or entering a new market, or entering a new channel. Maybe there's a pricing decision that you can make as a strategic imperative to better serve your customer. So strategic imperatives, just think about what are the things that your customer values most and what are generally about three imperatives the organization can focus on, on progressing the organization towards meeting those customer needs in the scope of your strategic plan, call it three to five years.
Tracy Eames (14:45):
Oh yeah. No, I was going to say, I didn't mean to interrupt, Mike, I just think there's a reason we call them imperatives, right? Because they're the three important things that you and your organization could do, right? So I think you're right to sort of say, hey, these are the three year timeframe and these are the big items, right? If we do nothing else, if we're going to serve our customers the way they would find valuable, then we need to make sure that we're executing on these three things, right? So I would agree with that and just kind of reinforce that we use the word imperative intentionally.
Mike Vaggalis (15:15):
It must happen. With must do these things. These are the big bucket things that your whole organization will be working to accomplish and putting the resources, both people and dollars, to accomplishing. So from that, you can think about strategic imperatives as really serving the customer. And after you nail down what those imperatives are, now you say, okay, well, how does our organization need to function in order to deliver against the strategic imperatives?
Mike Vaggalis (15:47):
So if you think when you're flying on a plane, and somebody comes on and tells you that you need to, in the event of an accident or a crash, put your own mask on first, and then help the person that you're with. Well, in a sort of similar way, strategic objectives are about serving your company. Making sure that your organization is positioned and is in a strong enough position to deliver against those imperatives.
Mike Vaggalis (16:14):
So we typically think about having usually three or four objectives. One is financial. What position does your organization need to be in financially in order to make substantial progress against the strategic imperatives? Two is from a team perspective. Who are the people that you need to have on your team in order to deliver against your strategic imperatives? And going into team is things like organizational design. Do you have things like succession plans? Are you appropriately staffed or are you understaffed? So do you have the team resources to deliver.
Mike Vaggalis (16:50):
Third is your operations, or your processes. Do you have the right operations or processes to deliver against the objectives? And then finally partnerships. These are similar to the people element of a strategic objective, just external. So generally these are collaborators that your organization may be working with in collaboration with to deliver value to your customer. So maybe it's suppliers, maybe it's channel partners, or another external partner that your organization works with to deliver value to the customers. So that's a very brief overview of strategic imperatives and strategic objectives. Tracy, clean me up. What did I miss?
Tracy Eames (17:33):
No, I think that's a great high level. I think that as we speak about objectives, and Mike touched on this, the important reason we take this extra step, a lot of organizations will take the strategic imperatives, which they call objectives, and they'll go right into KPIs. They'll say, okay, in order to achieve that, we need to do X, Y, and Z. And they'll do it at an individual kind of imperative level. We slot objectives in as these organizational kind of view, to make sure that you're kind of thinking about all of your imperatives as a group of things that you need to achieve, right?
Tracy Eames (18:06):
So to Mike's previous point, if your imperatives are around launching maybe a new product, maybe there's a new market that you're entering. All of those things are going to have some sort of financial implication. So as an organization, you want to be thinking about that pillar, and how you're going to support that foundational piece of your organization. And another pillar is kind of your teams. And another pillar is your operations, and your processes.
Tracy Eames (18:30):
From there, then you get into the super fun stuff that we love, which is how do you roll this out to your team, and how do you make team goals and individual goals, right? Taking those objectives and rolling them down into more KPIs, rolling them down into team and individual goals. 100%, you definitely have to do that. But a lot of folks kind of miss that middle step of saying, okay, before we go from what does the customer want and how are our teams going to deliver that individually, we want to take that middle view of objectives and say, okay, to be successful as an organization, what do we still need to put in place? So I think that was a great overview.
Tracy Eames (19:09):
And if you do all these things, you're ready for the final step, which is basically how do we achieve all of this, right? So first step on that is, as a lot of the work that we do, is helping you roll it out to your team. Making sure that, again, you have team goals, you have individual goals. And that way you're creating that line of sight we often talk about, right? So as an individual, I know what I do affects the success of my team, and my team's success affects the success of the organization. And ultimately, we're all creating that exceptional experience for the customer, right? So that's where that alignment comes.
Tracy Eames (19:43):
The great news is, in step one, when you were doing all that current state analysis, and you were doing all those interviews and surveys, you were gathering feedback and you were engaging your team. So now when you're rolling it out to them, they don't feel like, what, there's a strategic plan? What happened? Which is the experience we mostly have. If you're engaging them upfront, this next step becomes super easy because they're like, yeah. Oh yeah, we were part of that. We know what you're talking about. And then you can collaborate with them.
Mike Vaggalis (20:11):
Tracy Eames (20:12):
Mike Vaggalis (20:12):
They want a hand in it because they felt like, and they did, they didn't just feel like, but when your team has a hand in the creation process, it's a tremendously motivating thing for them to say, man, I was part of shaping the strategic direction. And they have line of sight to how their goals ladder back to the organization's goals. So sorry to cut you off. But I think it was a great point that you were making Tracy.
Tracy Eames (20:35):
No, I think it's one that it's one that deserves extra attention, right? Because you want to make sure that your whole organization feels like they're part of the plan. Because if you're all part of the plan, then you all are much more excited about getting there together. And then you're going to roll it out to everybody else. So you want to make sure you're updating your website, and making sure that people know your new vision and mission and values if those were updated. You want to make sure you're communicating with customers. Hey, these are the things we're committing to you. We're going to say our strategic imperatives are what we're going to be delivering in terms of values. That becomes a super valuable as you're going through customer presentations and customer meetings.
Tracy Eames (21:12):
So there's a whole communications rollout that you'll have from your strategic plan. There's obviously some things you won't roll out publicly, right? There's certain parts of your strategic plan that are private and they're proprietary information. But just to say like, hey, where are those touch points that we can take this opportunity to circle back to all those stakeholders and close the loop, right? We ask them for their opinion, we asked them for their feedback. Now's your chance to go back to them with whatever the relevant level of information is, and say, hey, good news. We took action on what you gave us, and here's how we're going to make it so we can serve you better if you're a customer, or here's how we're going to do this, if we're a partner, if you're a supplier, here's how this is going to affect kind of the improvement of our relationship. Or if it's a team member, here's how we're going to better support you in your role, right? Whatever that level of communication is.
Tracy Eames (22:04):
And then the part that honestly is missed a lot, the last step is just making sure that the last piece of communication is the metrics dashboard, right? You want to make sure that there's clear metrics and KPIs for each one of those strategic objectives. So if you have different goals, each one of those pillars might have two or three goals. So you might have two or three finance objectives, two or three team objectives. But you're going to be able to put something next to them.
Tracy Eames (22:30):
So to Mike's previous point, if one of your team objectives was making sure we have a succession planning for every role, great. Your goal there is 100%. You're going to track that throughout the year. And HR is going to say, "okay, now we're at 76%. Now we're at 84%." And every time you check in on that, you're going to see where you track against that KPI. And that again, continuously builds your feedback loop. So the whole process kind of from start to finish is you're saying where are we today, where do we want to go in terms of serving our customers? How are we going to get there? Strategic imperatives and objectives. And then how are we going to track to make sure we're actually on track and getting there? So that's kind of a very quick review of strategic planning. But Mike, how does that sound to you? Are there key pieces that we're missing, or that you know that come up often in questions that you might want to address for our listeners?
Mike Vaggalis (23:25):
Yeah, Tracy. I've got two just concluding thoughts here. One is just to give an overview of the structure of how we usually think about a strategic plan. And we always recommend having it on a single page. At the top of that page, you have your vision and your mission. These act as the north stars that your organization is working to accomplish. Directly below them are the strategic imperatives. These are the things your organization is committing to move your organization towards achieving the mission and the vision.
Mike Vaggalis (24:00):
Then below those come your strategic objectives. And like we just talked about, these are the components of your strategic plan to make sure that your organization is well positioned to deliver against those strategic imperatives, and move towards the north stars of your mission and your vision. And finally, all of these rest on your organizational values. So your organization is doing everything in a way that is consistent and aligned with the organizational values that you've selected in your strategic planning process. So that's how we recommend depicting the strategic plan.
Mike Vaggalis (24:41):
And then finally, just a recommendation, to work with an unbiased, preferably a third-party organization, to help guide the strategic planning process. And the reason is really simple. Whenever any of us work for an organization, we start to develop biases and perspectives on what the organization could or should do to advance towards the vision and mission that was selected. And in this process, it can become really difficult for somebody to take themselves out of the process and put on an unbiased perspective. So it is important to work with an organization that doesn't have that same degree of bias, and who's just going to faithfully report the reports that they found in the current state analysis and use that truly as the foundation. That's very, very unbiased to work towards the creation of the strategic planning process. So those are the last two thoughts that I had, Tracy. Anything else jump to mind for you?
Tracy Eames (25:41):
No, I would just build on that. I think that's right. And I think one of the ways, I guess, two tips if you're going to do it internally, right? If you're going to run your strategic plan internally, which is totally something that a lot of organizations do, two ways. One, you can have a committee, or you can have a group that's reviewing all of the data. That's one way to make sure that you're kind of keeping it in an unbiased situation, right? Everybody will still have their perspective, but because you have a few folks who are looking at it from different perspectives, you'll still kind of get a nice well-rounded body of information.
Tracy Eames (26:12):
So you might have somebody from marketing, and somebody from sales,. and somebody from customer support that's your kind of customer groups or your customer facing teams. You'll also have IT and operations and legal and HR. So you'll want to make sure that if you are kind of having a strategic plan and leading it internally, that there's a little bit more of a kind of strategic planning committee. And everybody's looking at it from a little bit of a different perspective, again, to kind of make sure you're getting all of those different thoughts on the table.
Tracy Eames (26:40):
The other thing you can do, it'll be my turn this week, to give our shameless plug, Mike. TEAMES Global is launching. And we have a course on strategic planning. So if you want some of these templates that Mike talked about and some of the tools we use, you can sign up for updates on TEAMES Global. We'll be launching really soon, and we're excited to kind of announce that launch so you can follow us on Facebook. There's a TEAMES Global group where you can actually ask us questions and get advice from other leaders. There's also just generally kind of signing up for updates on our website, teamesandco.com. You can go under the menu, and there's a TEAMES Global tab where you can sign up for updates. And we'll keep you posted on that. But in the meantime, if you have any questions about strategic planning, again, hashtag at askteames, A-S-K-T-E-A-M-E-S, and we'll be happy to connect with you on social media and answer any of your questions. So any other last thoughts, Mike?
Mike Vaggalis (27:40):
Yeah. Before you leave, wherever you're listening to your podcast, please give us a subscribe, a thumbs up, and a comment. All those things really, really help us out. So I would appreciate the support and share what we're doing with your friends and family and your coworkers. If you know somebody that you think would benefit from this content, please share it. And ask your friends and family to give us a thumbs up, and a subscribe, and a comment as well.
Tracy Eames (28:06):
Yeah. We love it. If you want to watch us in video format, you can head over to YouTube. But yeah, the reason we do this is because we've had a lot of requests for informal content that people can access and new ways to think about things. So feel free to share our podcasts. Again, share our videos on YouTube. And we're always happy to answer any questions. Just leave a comment, and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.
Mike Vaggalis (28:30):
Absolutely. All right. Well, Tracy, as always, really enjoyed this conversation, and looking forward to the next one.
Tracy Eames (28:38):
Me too, I'm going to actually get a couple of minutes of sunshine myself, and take the pup for a walk this evening. And hopefully you have a great night as well.
Mike Vaggalis (28:46):
Awesome. Sounds good. We'll see you next time, Tracy.