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When everyone in a business or organization participates in the planning stages of its direction, especially the strategic planning, the commitment and “buy-in” to carry out the plans and projects is greatly enhanced and the company direction is focused and powerful! Most importantly, utilizing independent facilitators can assure success through skilled guidance in acknowledgment and prioritization of all ideas and proposals.
What Is a Strategic Plan?
A strategic plan is a step-by-step guide, created by a business or organization. It maps out how it will reach goals and sets a foundation so the entire company knows what will happen and what is expected of them.
Essentially, it is a “formula” or “roadmap” to (1) help achieve a stated vision for the chosen target market; and (2) address how it serves customers consistently, effectively and profitably every single time.
The strategic plan serves as a systematic management tool for problem solving, market planning, product development and preparing business plans. The goal is to integrate all aspects of the business’s activities in a mutually supportive system.
If your organization is not following and implementing a written strategic plan, it’s time to take action and make strategic planning a priority.
What’s Included in a Strategic Plan
Strategic planning is the process of determining an organization’s long-term goals and then identifying the best approach for achieving those goals. This is not a business plan, but a step-by-step process that is a well thought out, focused strategy for your organizational development.
It includes the following:
- A shared vision of what will be
- A framework applicable to a specific period of time (though this framework may change as internal and external business factors change)
- An identified overall direction (but not the means of achieving it)
- An identified predetermined direction toward which short term actions will be pointed
- An identified context within which the organization accepts or rejects new products and opportunities
- Resources assigned to current services
Strategic planning enables an organization to think about the big picture and future plans, align stakeholder needs with a plan that can be put into operation, make decisions, prioritize, solve problems, deal with change and facilitate teamwork. A strategic plan is distinct from a tactical or operational plan, both of which are more dynamic and specific than a strategic plan.
Who Leads: Skilled, independent facilitator(s) are recommended to assist with the process of developing a strategic plan. An independent facilitator who is managing the strategic planning process can assure everyone’s participation and draw out all opinions. The owners or internal management are not the ideal candidates to lead strategic planning. A skilled facilitator guides the group through any rough waters, assuring a positive outcome. Get recommendations and interview facilitators to select the right fit for your organization.
Who Attends: When everyone in an organization participates in the planning stages, especially for the strategic planning, the commitment and “buy-in” to carry out the plans and projects is assured . Business owners can’t buy this kind of motivational interest. Likewise, business owners must be an integral part of such vital activities.
Include a variety of people in an organization to participate in any brainstorming sessions that include salespeople, perhaps their best customer or other friendly ally, administration, engineering, marketing, finance, distributors and the owner. Six to 10 people is ideal. The key decision makers must attend – this is not a process to be handled by upper or middle management.
The old method of strategic planning occurs with “owners and top management sitting behind locked doors and then force feeding” company goals to the staff. This “hierarchical” process is partially responsible for the high level of disengagement in the American workforce today. Deciding who to include in the strategic planning session is a major decision because this is a disciplined, focused effort and not a “fun and games” recreational retreat. Strategic planning can be a slow and laborious process for those who are not skilled in sustaining strong mental focus for eight hours a day. This does not mean they should be excluded if they hold a key organizational position; however, the planning session could take longer and requires a higher level of facilitation. There are no overnight successes, and every company that is successful has reached it through diligent planning and implementation.
The Process: During the strategic planning process, the organization begins by identifying its vision and mission. The vision and mission should inspire everyone on the team by stating a clear intention for the company. Once these are clearly defined, it moves on to a series of analyses, including external, internal, gap and benchmarking, which provide a context for developing the organization’s strategic issues.
Strategic programming follows and the organization develops specific strategies including strategic goals, action plans and tactics. Emergent strategies evolve, challenging the intended tactics and altering the realized strategy. Periodically, the organization evaluates its strategies and reviews its strategic plan, considering emergent strategies and evolving changes. It usually takes several years before strategic planning becomes internalized and organizations learn to think strategically.
“With time, people in the organization will routinely make their decisions within the framework of the organization’s strategic vision and mission. Strategic planning becomes an organizational norm, deeply embedded within the organization’s decision-making process, and participants learn to think strategically as part of their regular daily activities.” (Lerner, 1999).
The Implementation : The greatest strategic plans are useless unless carried out properly. Implementation of the plan is a direct reflection of the company leadership . Strong implementation is a direct reflection of powerful, focused company leadership. It demonstrates that the correct leader is in place at the correct time of organizational growth, leading the correct team. Weak or scattered implementation is the opposite. It is a direct reflection of having the wrong leader for the current company goals and/or team(s).
The Commitment: A strategic planning session requires 3 days, preferably out of the office environment. The fees range from $12,000 to $40,000, depending on the complexity of the organization. This is a small investment of time and money to assure your organization is aligned and focused toward winning outcomes in the three key areas of business growth – revenue, people and process . If you think your organization cannot afford this, you could be making a fatal business error, especially if you wish to grow your company and enjoy a healthy future.