ASPIRE is the first step of your journey. It’s all about getting crystalline on what you aspire for your organization to become, and what is most important along the way. Before you start setting goals and crafting a plan, you need to thoroughly understand who you are, what you stand for, and where you’d like to take your business in the future.
Think of the work you will do in the ASPIRE stage as the long-term foundation for all your future strategic planning. The groundwork created/compiled in this stage will serve as reference through the balance of the ATLAS program. In this stage you will compile (if you have it already) or create your: Aspire Stories; Mission, Vision and Purpose statements; Core Values; Guiding Principals; Future Organizational Chart; Customer Personas and Value Proposition Statements.
Through the previous stage, you will have formed a clear understanding for where you are ideally headed and what you stand for. Now, in the TRANSFORM stage, you will build a plan for how to get from present day to the even more remarkable, future version of you business.
At the centre of this process is a goal-setting model called OKRs (Objective, Key Results). It’s a model used by all types of organizations, from new start-ups, to growing non-profits, to industry giants like Google and LinkedIn. We embrace the OKR model because it’s straightforward, does a great job of getting your priorities articulated and cascades really well through an organization.
You will also define some milestones and progress measurements around your objectives. At the end of this stage, you will have a solid map for your path forward, and clarity on what is truly important along the way.
Equally important as identifying the actions and activities that will move you closer to your goals is understanding what activities exist in the current fabric of the business – that are using valuable resources – but stand in the way or distract the business from it’s now-charted course. The LIBERATE stage is all about identifying and cutting-loose the deadweight.
No mater the size of the operation, every business has some – or a lot – of these opportunities to streamline. These are often the ‘because we’ve always done it that way’ processes or some up-leveling you’ve been avoiding because change will require a difficult conversation. It may be products or services offered that no longer align with the vision, staff that are unable (or unwilling) to perform to the level required or, even customers. Pruning wrong-fit customers from your roster can sometimes be the most liberating thing you do. Ultimately, if you are to achieve your goals, you need to free-up resources to focus on what matters.
By this point, you’ll be clear on where you’re headed and what you need to do to get there. You’ll have visibility to the milestones that will confirm if you’re on-course and you’ll have awareness of what you need to cut-loose to ensure you remain focussed. ACCOUNTABILITY will be the underpinning of your plan and the driver behind converting the knowledge of what to do into action. That is, ensuring you actually execute on the things outlined in your plan. The ACCOUNTABILITY stage is about exactly this. It involves implementing an accountability model which includes feedback mechanisms, scorecard metrics and a check-in cadence for your team, as well as for yourself.
Strategic planning is a process that is never “done.” The business landscape is always morphing and your organization is always evolving. That’s why it’s critical that you schedule dedicated time – usually quarterly – to step back, analyse progress and review if your objectives are still the right ones. It’s also the time to reflect and decide if your actions are truly in alignment with your plan, or if some course-corrceton is required. Technically, you’re always in the SYNERGY stage of ATLAS, but the key is to schedule deliberate and intentional time to show-up ready to reflect and re-calibrate.