Too many strategic plans get lost in their own complexity. It’s a simple fact. Too often, executives and business leaders lack the ability to convert a lengthy, complex plan into something actionable – something they can lead their team to implement. Strategic planning should not be like this. A strategic plan should not be so difficult that it can’t be implemented and most of this comes down to not the plan, but a lack of clarity around implementing it. Where do you start? What are the priorities? With one little Principle this can change.
This is a little something called the Pareto Principle.
The Pareto Principle is often referred to as the 80:20 rule. The first 80% of benefits are achieved through the first 20% of effort. And you can apply this logic to the strategic planning process. As Greg McKeown wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “Once you unlearn the 50/50 logic, a whole set of behaviours become instinctive. We start scanning our environment for what is really essential. We eagerly eliminate the non-essentials and we say no to 1,000 things in order to say yes to the one that is exactly what we are looking for.”
That is how you implement a strategic plan. By knowing what your priorities are and focusing on those, investing effort into achieving those will give you 80% of the result you want. That is 80% closer to your next goal than you were before. So, here is what you need to know about applying it.
What does a Pareto Plan look like?
A Pareto Plan is one page long. That’s it. It should detail what the goal is you are trying to achieve, what measurements and metrics are relevant and the steps to achieving that goal. This will often come with a secondary page that details individual tasks and accountability and the document sits alongside the overarching strategic plan.
How often do you re-evaluate a Pareto Plan?
Companies using Pareto Planning will report progress against their plan monthly and review the plan at least quarterly. These reviews are typically completed in just 1-2 hours and are designed to ensure the plan is still relevant to the overarching strategy and re-confirm direction, action steps and accountability. Reviews can be triggered by changing economic circumstances, by evolving competition, products or consumer sentiment, or just by plain getting things done and needing to move forward with your activity.
Other than implementing the plan, what advantages does this method of planning have?
Pareto planning sessions serve as a valuable communication tool between leaders and their teams. They allow you to bring everyone together to identify which critical issues are next to be addressed. This also means that you can adjust plans if need be and everybody in your team is part of the discussion – they know what is being changed and why, inspiring action through understanding of the greater purpose.
By using the Pareto Principle, you can identify the immediate priorities, understand the drivers to make those things happen and manage it in short sharp bursts that ensure that 20% of effort occurs every few months to see real results. This method of implementing a strategic plan ensures that your strategic plan will give you better results, faster. It will create a nimble, responsive and resilient organization - such important things in today’s constantly evolving business landscape.
So, if you are struggling to convert your strategic plan into something implementable and actionable, Pareto could be the best way to go.