With the NFL season now concluded, I hope it’s not too late for one last lesson that we can draw from America’s favorite sport. Much has been made in recent years about the “halftime adjustment”. This is coaching staff’s ability – or inability – to take in the realities of the game through the first half and reshape their strategy based on what’s working and not working. Especially for the big games, every coaching staff develops a game plan for how to come out on top, and that starting game plan rarely survives the game intact. Even teams that are winning will have to ask themselves how the other team will adjust and then plan accordingly.
We think there’s a valuable lesson here for organizations that are in the two- to three-year mark of their five year strategic plan. Companies and organizations frequently don’t take a ‘halftime’ to analyze what’s been working, fix or discontinue what’s not working, and reinvigorate their action planning for the second half of their strategic plan.
Think your organization needs a halftime? Here are some steps to consider for the prep, execution, and follow-through for a strategic planning halftime.
- Learn the X’s and O’s. Prior to calling the conversation, it’s time to figure out the current state by the numbers. Your plan from a couple of years ago probably had tactics, actions, etc. Complete a rundown of how those initiatives are fairing. It can be as simple as a “green-yellow-red”, or a summary report by the point people for those initiatives, or you may need to delegate a fact finder to ask around and get feedback from the field. Either way, your halftime should be built on a good understanding of the realities in on the ground.
- Affirm the direction. In all likelihood, your strategy is built around a vision for where you want to be, and a focused set of pillars for how to get there. Hopefully, these core tenets of your strategy still hold. If they don’t, you might need more than a “halftime.” If they still hold true, then it pays to reaffirm them so that the group that’s taking part in the halftime all have the same goals and direction in mind.
- Honest assessment. The halftime hinges on non-judgmental honesty about what’s working and not working. It’s important to set up at the outset that this is an opportunity to see clearly how to focus on successes and learn from mistakes.
- Forward focus. Most five-year plans have strong direction, clear pillars, and about 1-2 years of tactics and action planning. A successful halftime will replenish the specificity and enthusiasm for the specific work you agree to do together collectively in service of the direction.
- Deselection is vital. The flip side of that positive planning is that you can’t be afraid to stop experiments that didn’t pan out. We would advocate for a mentality that says, “We are going to find one thing that we can stop doing.” Finding even one thing to stop doing both saves resources as well as sends a powerful signal to the rest of the organization about the organization’s ability to be decisive. Challenge yourself to find at least one thing you can move away from.
- Everyone knows their role. The key deliverable coming out of halftime is a renewed action plan. Any good action plan will have activities, high-level steps for those activities, the person or parties responsible for making it happen, and a time frame in which to do it. Furthermore, the action plan shows with clarity how completing those actions adds up to meeting the vision in the original plan. Seeing how your work contributes to the greater goal transforms individual contributors into a team pulling in one direction.
Last but not least, the halftime is an opportunity to bring people together, celebrate your successes, learn from each other about what’s been working, and generate buzz around the next couple of years of effort. In the real world, the clock doesn’t hit double zeros on the second quarter, reminding you it’s time to adjust. If you, as a leader, can that remember to take that timeout under your own volition, it can give you the time you need to breath, assess, and go forward confidently. We’re rooting for you.