How To Reflect On Your Last Strategy

January and February are our busiest months here at Cascade Strategy. It’s that time of year again when organizations look back on what they’ve achieved, and start dreaming about what we want to achieve next. Hopefully, last year was the year when you finally started to deliver against your strategic plan – but whether you did or didn’t, we’re on a mission to help you ensure that this year – your execution is the best it’s ever been.

But before we start to look forward, we first need to look back…

What went wrong last time around?

Even if you feel like you had a pretty good year around delivering your goals, there are always lessons that can be learnt to make things even better. Before you even start thinking about your goals for the new year, you need to do a frank and honest assessment of how well you did last time, and what can be improved upon. We recent came across a great blog by the team over at Zapier on how to do a ‘project postmortem’ – and 90% of what they say applies here. Rather than regurgitate their content, check out the original blog article here then head back over here where we’ll put some strategy context on to their framework.

OK, grab a notepad and start by asking yourself a few simple questions about your old plan:

  • What was I hoping to achieve by the end of the year?

Maybe it was a revenue target, a sales goal or a new product launch. Note down around 3 key things that you were planning to achieve by the end of the year (whether you achieved them or not).

  • Which ones didn’t I achieve?

Simple enough – put a ‘Result’ against any items on your paper that you either didn’t achieve at all, or didn’t achieve as well as you would have liked.

  • Why didn’t I achieve them?

For each item, write down the main two reasons that you didn’t get there (I know, two reasons is hard, there are probably lots, but this will help us to keep things focused!)

  • What can I do better next time?

Now the hard bit – once again write down two things (just two!) that you could have done different to reach your goal – avoid saying anything like ‘be more realistic in goal setting’! We will deal with pragmatism later (it’s important) but for now it’s a case of finding tangible solutions to your problems.

We’ve been doing this process here at Cascade for years, here’s a look back at what this exercise yielded for us way back in 2016!

Strategic plan - Assess your 2015 perferomance

You can do the whole process in around 30 minutes, and you can do it either alone or with your team. The purpose isn’t to dwell on past mistakes, it’s to have your previous goals as fresh as possible in your mind as you go into the creation of your new strategic plan.

All done? Great, you’re all set to start creating your new strategic plan. On that note, you’ll definitely want to check out our awesome strategic planning mini-series:

  1. Strategic Planning 101 – The Basic Foundations
  2. How to Write a Good Vision Statement (this article)
  3. Writing Your Organisational Values
  4. Creating Focus Areas for your Strategy
  5. Writing Good Strategic Objectives

Let me know in the comments how you found the exercise and whether it turned up any interesting results!

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