Strategic planning allows a business to set overall goals and develop a plan to reach those goals. A well-executed plan can provide an important framework for decision-making and help a company stay focused on the path to success. However, few organizations large or small truly understand how to implement a successful strategy. Terminology is often confusing, plans gather dust on shelves and the process itself becomes bogged down by day-to-day operations.
Strategic plans involve stepping back from the day-to-day and asking where your business wants to be in the future. This involves identifying the skills and resources you have, as well as those of your competitors, and how you will best use them to achieve your goals. Taking the time to develop a strategy is essential for growth and ensuring that you will be prepared for what lies ahead.
One of the most important aspects of strategic planning is getting buy-in from your staff and key stakeholders. A successful strategy will require the input of a wide range of people – from management to accountants, employees and suppliers. This may mean challenging current practices that may no longer fit with your strategic direction and empowering others to make decisions.
Once your team is in place, it’s necessary to establish a timeline for the entire planning process. Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, this process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Assemble a team that includes members from critical business functions – such as finance, operations, product development, human resources and marketing – to ensure the success of your strategic plan. It’s also helpful to include employees from outside your immediate business, as they may offer valuable insights and ideas that you hadn’t considered.
The second step in the strategic planning process is establishing measurable objectives to reach your long-term goals. This can be done through a process called strategy mapping, which is the art of visually laying out all the tasks and responsibilities that need to be fulfilled in order to meet your strategic objectives. This helps to provide clarity and accountability for everyone involved.
It’s essential to balance the vision of your strategic goals with the practical realities of your current position. You will likely need to commit more resources than you have now if you want to achieve your goals. Be careful not to be so ambitious that you are unable to deliver on your promises or overextend yourself financially.
Hire a facilitator to guide your team through the strategic planning process. A good facilitator will be able to keep your team on track without allowing the process to become a marathon that drains your employees of their energy and enthusiasm. It’s also essential to establish a schedule of meetings for reviewing the strategic plan on an ongoing basis. Ideally, the schedule will incorporate regular strategic reviews, quick evaluations and adjustments of objectives to account for changes in business conditions.