Menu Close

International Strategic Thinking Month

Written by Pearl Chang Esau, Founder & CEO of Shan Strategies

I’m thrilled to be working this Fall with the Greater Phoenix Chamber on developing a three-year strategic plan. I named my company Shan Strategies after the mandarin word, “Shan” which means to improve, make better or to do good in the world. The alignment of a team around a shared purpose and plan ensures that organizations are doing the largest amount of good possible whether it’s addressing a pressing economic or social issue, organizing and deploying resources effectively, or supporting productive and happy employees.

This year is a good time to undertake a strategic planning process, with the social, economic and political environment experiencing significant changes in the last couple of years. Thinking about developing a new strategic plan or dusting off an old one? Here are my top tips:

  • Start with the end in mind. With clients, I always start with an exercise around identifying the desired impact that the organization wants to have within the timeframe that they are planning for. The impact should be as specific as possible with who the audience is, where the impact is taking place and what we will see if we have succeeded. Where many strategic plans struggle, the reason is often that the end goal is not clear or specific enough.
  • Seek community feedback. Ask your closest investors, partners what they think are the great opportunities ahead, and welcome constructive feedback on what needs to change or be done differently.
  • Keep it simple and visible. Rally around a vision and unity of purpose that everyone can remember and keep at the forefront of their minds. Create a one pager that summarizes the vision, strategic pillars and measurable results and ask employees to place it somewhere they will see it everyday.
  • Involve the Board, leadership team and staff. It’s important that the team at all levels has the opportunity to participate. Asking the board, leadership team and staff to engage at points throughout the process will help strengthen the plan and increase buy in.
  • Execution, execution, execution. Almost everyone has had the experience of creating a strategic plan that ends up collecting dust on a shelf. Critical to the success of the plan is managing its execution. Management occurs through practices such as integrating the plan into performance evaluations, monthly progress meetings using dashboards for tracking, establishing quarterly milestones and above all, transparency and consistency from leadership at the top.

If you are interested in exploring a strategic planning process with your organization, please learn more at