Why it’s Critical to Have a Strategic Plan

Illustration of meeting at round tableHaving a strategic plan is the best way to bring focus and direction to your organization.

Do you have a vision of what your business or organization will look like three years from now? Do you have a plan to get you there? Are your employees aware of what your plans are? Will you be closer to your vision a year from now? How will you know if you’re on track?

Savvy leaders don’t wait for things to happen – they anticipate, they plan, they monitor – and most importantly, they protect themselves from external forces that could put them out of business. Savvy leaders typically use tried and true strategic planning to get and stay ahead of the game. They make time to answer the key questions an effective strategic planning process is designed to address:

1. Where are we now?
2. Where do we want to be?
3. How will we get there?
4. Who must do what?
5. How are we doing?

Avoiding Planning

If having a sound plan is so critical to long term success, why do so many organizations avoid strategic planning?

Many feel it’s complicated, costly and takes too much time away from day-to-day activities. Even those businesses that develop a strategic plan with the best intentions often allow key action plans to go unaddressed — even though by doing so they could pay the ultimate price.

Many are not clear on the differences between the terms strategy, strategic plan, and strategic planning. Strategy is simply making a conscious decision to be clear about what your direction will be in a constantly changing world. Your chosen strategies are what drive your strategic plan — your roadmap that spells out where you’re going over the coming months and years and specifically what you’re going to do to get there. The actual process of creating the roadmap is strategic planning.

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5 Phases of Effective Strategic Planning

Developing a Strategic Plan does NOT have to be a Complicated Process!

Strategic Planning CartoonMy role as a Strategic Planning Facilitator is to design a process that’s right for your company and results in an effective strategic plan.

My initial objectives are to:

> Raise the understanding among participants about the upcoming strategic planning process.
> Let participants know what’s going to be expected of them.
> Create enthusiasm about the upcoming process.

During the actual development of the plan, I work to guide the entire process and to keep the discussions productive, on-track and within agreed upon time guidelines.

After the plan is established, during the implementation phase, I continue to work with participants who have action plans assigned to them in order to monitor progress and to make revisions to the plan when necessary.

Every situation calls for a unique approach to strategic planning. Factors which impact how strategic planning is carried out include: the goals of the company’s leader and his or her expectations, the size of the company, its culture, its stage of growth, its previous experience with strategic planning, and more.

The typical strategic planning process is a group activity involving a cross-functional team of four to eight upper level managers and includes the company leader (CEO, President, Owner, etc.). The strategic planning process itself basically follows the five questions posed above and can be further described as follows…

1. Planning Phase

First is the Planning Phase which answers ‘Where are we now?’ and becomes the basis for the plan. This includes an Internal Assessment of the Strengths and Weaknesses of the business and an External Assessment where important Threats and Opportunities are identified. This is commonly referred to as a S.W.O.T. Analysis.

I feel it’s important to emphasize that an effective SWOT analysis usually requires some extraordinary information gathering. The appropriate amount of time and resources need to be dedicated to this phase of the strategic planning process. Identifying meaningful and actionable key data and opinions from customers along with good information about the marketplace, especially about competitors, are vital to the success and effectiveness of this effort and the resulting plan.

Additional aspects of the Planning Phase include identifying any Assumptions that have been made and any pressing Priority Issues that need more immediate attention. It’s also important to establish two or three Key Core Competencies that give the company its competitive edge.

2. Desired Results Phase

Next is ‘Where do we want to be?’ or the Desired Results Phase. This is when the strategic planning team establishes the Vision Statement for the organization and the agreed upon two to four Objectives the plan will focus on.

3. How Do We Get There Phase

The How do we Get There Phase represents the real meat of the Strategic Plan. This is where the team writes the Mission Statement and creates and prioritizes the Strategies and Programs that are designed to achieve the objectives of the plan.

4. Implementation Phase

During the Implementation Phase it is decided ‘Who must do what?’ and agreed upon Action Plans are established for the prioritized Strategies and Programs. Action plans include specifics about what is going to be done and who is responsible for getting it done. Additionally, specific ‘due by’ or ‘done by’ dates and data points tied to each action plan are established.

5. Review Phase

Action plans are critical to the overall success of the strategic plan. During the ‘How are we Doing?’ or Review Phase the person responsible for implementation of the strategic plan monitors the progress of all the action plans. Failure to meet due dates requires adjustments or revisions to the action plan(s). Such changes typically require the approval or notification of company leadership and sometimes requires reconvening the strategic planning team to discuss the best way to deal with the changes.

It cannot be stressed enough that without  this level of review or monitoring it’s highly unlikely the plan will be implemented as envisioned by the team and the plan’s objectives will not be met. This is why it’s important to have one individual responsible for the overall implementation of the strategic plan. Additionally, this person should not only be monitoring the progress of action plans, but should also be aware of new plans and projects which may be at odds with the key objectives of the strategic plan. When significant company resources are being dedicated to any new undertaking the question must be asked: “Is this consistent with our strategic plan objectives?”.

Getting Started with Effective Strategic Planning

When you establish your company’s mission, its core competencies, top objectives, and agreed upon action plans, it will bring clarity and focus — and will ensure every part of your organization is pointed in the same direction.

I can help you to make this a reality!

Let’s start with a phone conversation. Help me to understand the state of your business. I want to learn about the challenges you face and the goals you envision. My role is to help you enhance your leadership through the creation of plans aimed at achieving the most important objectives for your business. I will work with you to establish the process that you feel is right for your team.

To get the ball rolling, please provide submit the request form below.

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Strategic Planning Facilitator, Jim Gribble “The Strat Plan Guy”, has decades of experience helping all types of organizations achieve their goals. During the first part of his career he ran profit centers as large as $85 million for leading direct-to-consumer companies. Jim first learned the power of strategic planning in the 80’s as a Product Manager at Xerox. Next, at International Masters Publishers he led a strategic planning effort that guided the company’s growth from $30 million to over $120 million in just four years. As an independent consultant for the past 15 years, Jim has developed strategic plans and marketing programs that have resulted in tremendous success for many clients. You’re invited to learn more about what Jim can do to help your business or organization benefit from effective strategic planning.