Strategic planning is essential for the smooth and effective functioning of any company. Just as a commercial airline pilot must put together a detailed flight plan in order to successfully navigate from one destination to the next, so must CEOs and company leaders carefully plan for the direction and future of their businessesTweet This

With this in mind, I recently spoke with Teresa Bryce Bazemore, President of Radian Guaranty, about the unique strategic planning model she developed and uses in her company. Her strategy incorporates the following six steps:

Encourage new perspectives.

“The value that diversity and multidimensional thinking brings to the team cannot be overstated,” Bazemore explained. “We have a wide range of speakers such as futurists, economists, and out of the box thinkers present to the Radian team. This is a fantastic opportunity for the team to hear from people they wouldn’t necessarily be in contact with otherwise.” These presentations help stimulate creativity and the formation of fresh ideas within the team.

White board ideas.

“Meeting with the team and white boarding ideas for the future works on two different levels. First, taking the time to create things together enables everyone to feel empowered. Every team member has an opportunity to bring something of value to the table,” Bazemore stated. “Second, there is a very real, tactile element to the act of writing ideas down. The very process makes something intangible, tangible. Ideas can then be examined and expanded upon.”

Filter best ideas by prioritizing.

A white boarding session often produces an abundance of great ideas. However, implementing every idea simply isn’t feasible. There’s a need to filter down and determine which ideas will make it. According to Bazemore, the ideas produced are prioritized by which items have the biggest potential to increase shareholder value. “The team will come up with a set of ideas but won’t be able to implement everything. The idea is that you pick three to four winners that will add the most value to the company.” Radian’s focus is all about the customers and with this as a guiding principle, it’s Bazemore’s responsibility to choose the ideas that improve customer experience and can lead to higher revenues. Make sure to keep a repository of the ideas that aren’t currently a priority to revisit in the future.

Translate impact items.

The next step in the process is to develop strategic goals with matching objectives. Bazemore elaborated, “Now that you have filtered the ideas, decide how to implement them and most importantly, where those ideas fit into the goals and big picture of the company.” Of course, this underscores the importance of already having a clear vision of the company’s overall goals, direction and mission. Bazemore continued, “If the ideas don’t fit, you need to dump them so that you only move forward with the great ideas that fit into the company’s big picture.”

Monitor progress regularly.

With a fast changing business environment, is it important to periodically review the plan, as well as test the plan against possible alternative economic or other scenarios. It’s one thing to brainstorm and plan, and another altogether to implement and maintain those new ideas. There needs to be both accountability and a quantifiable way to measure progress. “Someone, on an ongoing basis, is measuring and developing timelines, milestones, and benchmarks in order to see how the team/company is doing. This person should have regular meetings with team leaders and managers, as well as an ongoing dialogue at executive team meetings in order to keep progress moving forward,” Bazemore urged. When progress is monitored in this way, it’s much easier to make adjustments when needed.

Make adjustments as a group.

When those adjustments need making, Bazemore emphasized the importance of making them as a team. “Just as white boarding ideas involves the team as a whole, making adjustments should as well. This imparts a critical sense of ownership throughout the entire process from the idea stage through implementation and beyond. Changes are more impactful when each team member feels a personal connection to them.” Team members are not just following company policy, they are having a hand in making it. It’s this sense of ownership that makes the difference between passionate, engaged employees and people who are simply punching a clock.

During our conversation, Bazemore’s inclusion of the entire team throughout the strategic planning model is what struck home the most. Too often, CEOs and company leadership conduct all planning behind closed doors. Bazemore’s unique model is so much more than an open door policy – it’s an open company policy, inviting team members to the table and to the conversation.

Bazemore’s planning model begins with an infusion of creativity from out of the box thinkers, takes that creativity and runs with it, before drilling down on the best ideas with both customers and shareholders in mind. From there, implementation, monitoring progress and making adjustments are all done on an inclusive, team level. It’s this coming together of diversity and inclusivity that sets Bazemore’s strategic planning model above the rest.

Photo Credit: @andreeas, Twenty20