The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked our world in every way possible and the economy is one of the most visibly affected. For many industries, the way people consume goods and services has fundamentally changed. It has been fascinating to watch how leaders have altered their company strategies. Some leaders have leaned into the crisis opportunistically, leveraging a landscape where demand and supply have drastically shifted, others taking a soft wait-and-see approach, cautious of making moves in the midst of ever-changing and sometimes contradictory information.

Regardless of the approach chosen to see your business through, or perhaps thrive in these strange times, taking a moment to galvanize the strategy you are pushing in the marketplace is incredibly important. Whether it is intentional or not, your actions communicate a strategy to the market and your organization. Something is guiding your decisions and driving the actions of your teams. Leaders must ensure the strategy being deployed has been deliberately chosen. This is why we are taking time now to review the principles and process of OGSM, our top choice for strategic planning methodologies.

As always, we are steadfast believers and practitioners of OGSM, and for good reason.

The OGSM methodology to strategic planning has stood the test of time. It remains one of the best tools we have found for building strategic plans that resonate with all levels of an organization. We have seen it work time and again for our clients. Over 50 of the Fortune 500 companies including P&G, Mars Inc. and Coca-Cola, utilize OGSM to align and enhance strategic execution in their organizations.

That’s really why OGSM works – it links strategy to execution.

The process of creating your strategic plan in the OGSM approach allows your company to crystallize key financial goals and strategies, critical initiatives, owners and due dates and finally, builds a one-page living document that becomes the roadmap for all future planning reviews.

Our OGSM strategic planning process has four phases.

Step 1: Assess the current state of the business.

An objective, honest assessment of where the organization is today is crucial to the success of OGSM efforts. Strategic plans must consider an organization’s current performance, potential revenue growth, and capability and availability of resources. Most likely these have changed since the pandemic hit, as have external forces that impact the business, so getting a grip on where the company sits today vs. its perceived position will help make sounder decisions.

Step 2: Define the future state of the business.

Using the current state assessment as a guidepost, set the path to the future and define the objective of the business. Traditionally the time frame for planning is three to five years but in this environment, planning for anything past six months has a high chance of needing to change. Shorten the planning window and review goals on a more frequent basis to make sure they still make sense.

Develop the financial and performance goals for the same time frame, addressing gaps between expectations and financial realities. This step is more difficult in these uncertain times. Building in flexibility can allow the plan to adapt as the market ebbs, flows and (hopefully) settles into a new normal. What is possible now in this new world? Is totally redefining your objective possible? Can you move into new markets, or choose to go deeper with current customers? Making these big choices – or deciding that the current path is still the correct one – sets the tone for the rest of the strategic plan.

Step 3: Develop and prioritize the strategic plan.

Create strategies (overarching themes in the areas of growth, productivity, or people) and initiatives that support each strategy. Measures are identified and aligned to each strategy for tracking progress. This step is also where project plans are put in place for each initiative to define the work activities, owners, required resources, milestones, and potential barriers.

Strategies and initiatives must be prioritized so the organization stays focused on completing the most important work. These days many companies are operating with fewer resources than usual, and prioritization is the key to accomplishing strategies the team agrees will have the biggest impact.

Step 4: Align, execute, and manage the strategic plan.

Cascade goals, strategies, and initiatives into functional plans. All activity should be connected strategically, and cascading starts a natural flow of top-down/bottom-up information. Implement a management routine, agreeing to track and communicate progress on a regular basis. The importance of this step cannot be understated. It continually reinforces the strategic intent of the organization, keeping it top-of-mind, and tells us when a course correction is needed.

Another piece that is critically important now is alignment. Many companies are operating to some capacity with a remote workforce, which can create gaps in planning and communication for organizations. Leaders must be stewards of making sure everyone is connected and moving in the same direction. With market conditions in mind, set a schedule to review near-term elements of the plan more frequently.

Many leaders are at a fork in the road. Decisions must be made to plow the road harder, turn in a different direction, or get on a different road altogether. Going through an OGSM exercise provides clarity, discipline, and direction and can help leaders navigate tough decisions. If you need help on getting started, download our OGSM whitepaper, OGSM and Initiative Charter Template, browse other articles on strategic planning or drop me a line.