Your business needs a plan and here is why –
- A strategic plan, at its core, enables an organization regardless of size to have a focus, a direction with goals to achieve, and a plan, a roadmap of how to get there.
- With a well formulated strategy, organizations can focus their business energies, identify their talent needs, provide their employees growth opportunities and enhance their processes and technologies in an informed manner.
- No business can succeed if its employees don’t have meaning to their day-to-day work and how their work contributes to a larger purpose. A strategic plan makes that happen.
- A strategic plan can help an organization prioritize and balance between long term aspirations and short term tactics, ultimately bringing to light mutual dependencies and conflicts.
- Finally, a strategic plan is deliberate – it keeps an organization in check and drives it forward in a thoughtful manner.
How do you get started? What is the methodology to use?
There is an abundance of material, available online, on developing strategic plans which can be overwhelming to any size business. Organizations can adapt what is publicly available and make it fit their unique needs. They can accept information from a broad array of sources, but tailor the takeaways to the specific needs of the business. It is never a one-size-fits all approach, but the core principles of strategic planning can be extracted and applied without heavy capital investments.
A third party is an alternative to consider. A neutral source, well versed in the same industry, is often a good option to facilitate the strategic planning process. An outside, relevant perspective can facilitate healthy conversations and promote ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking.
Pause and define the guiding principles of the organization:
These guiding principles set the foundation for strategic vision, leadership behaviors, organizational culture and employee engagement for the organization as a whole to rally around. It also helps define what an organization will not be – which is sometimes equally important.
- Purpose (Why you exist)
- Mission (Today’s view)
- Vision (Future view – what do you want to be)
- Values (How do you want to behave)
Take these 10 practical steps:
- Complete a market analysis, environmental scan and competitive review.
- Identify key external stakeholders but don’t forget an equally important group of internal stakeholders – front line employees and members of the management team whose insights make for a robust strategic plan with a high adoption rate.
- Complete a SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) analysis seeking input from both internal and external stakeholders.
- Derive strategic objectives (usually goals that are deemed most important). They are derived from market/environmental analysis alongside the SWOT analysis. This ensures Strengths are capitalized, Weaknesses are improved or eliminated, Threats are mitigated and/or converted into Opportunities that are recognized.
- Identify and list what needs to be done to meet these strategic objectives. Often times these can be overwhelming for small businesses in particular, primarily due to resource and capital constraints while continuing to manage the day-to-day operations. But, keep in mind that with the right balance of people, methodology and process, one can get it done.
- Prioritize, both, short term and long term initiatives. Short term and long term definitions differ by organizations and is dependent on organizational size and capacity.
- Schedule the initiatives. This is both an art and a science. If asked ‘What comes first?’ the answer almost always is ‘It depends on resource availability and priority’.
- Engage with cross functional teams whenever possible during the planning process. This strengthens employee engagement while providing a growth opportunity for high performing employees.
- Establish sponsors to each of the initiatives to promote ownership and opportunities.
- Execute the plan!
And, last but not the least:
- Define measurable success factors and targets (financial or otherwise).
- A plan is a plan, reality is sometimes different so re-evaluating the assumptions on a regular basis helps the organization stay nimble and agile.
- Over communication does not hurt. It gets employees to understand, align and adopt.
- Remember to celebrate all the successes along the way and continue to learn and improve from failures. This makes for a stronger organizational culture and a sense of belonging for the employees.
A well informed strategic plan allows organizations to achieve, accomplish and succeed!