Strategic Planning Basics

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The key to understanding a Strategic Plan is that one size does not fit all. You can’t buy it off the shelf, and there is not a template that meets all companies. Here are some fundamentals to consider when starting your strategic plan:

What do you want to accomplish?

What is the time frame to meet your goal?

Do you have the right assets to meet the goal?

How do you measure the success?

These four topics cannot accurately account for the magnitude of information needed to accurately develop a successful strategic plan, but they are a good start. Like building a home, you must start with the foundation — the dirt work. That means you may have to get dirty and consider making changes — your approach should be that nothing is sacred — to be successful.

Consider an off-site strategic planning session. The normal distractions of any office environment can make it the worst place to strategize. In fact, you might want to consider holding all follow-up planning sessions out of the office as well. This doesn’t have to be an expensive retreat, as the key here is a fresh environment without office distractions.

Start by honestly evaluating who you are as an organization.  Remember to look at areas where you need to improve or make changes. So often companies want to grow, be more profitable and more efficient, and yet they fail to recognize and correct the problems holding the company back all along. A strategic plan cannot provide the desired results unless you become transparent and honest with the company and correct or repair the things that are broken first. Ask your stakeholders, employees and leaders for input. It is much harder to create a successful strategic plan if your foundation (aka team) is not prepared for growth or changes.

It is also important to create a timeline for a strategic plan to be successful. Knowing what numbers are important to your business, how they are tracked, and what success looks like shows everyone in the organization what is expected not only of them but the leadership as well. Everyone is held accountable — top to bottom.

A strategic plan needs to include an inner reflection of your current state. If you realize this is not who you want to be, then you must adjust your current organization. Do you have the right people in the right places? Are you listening to your customers and what they have to say about your business?  Perception is reality when customers are involved. All too often companies see themselves as successful when their customers see them as only adequate.

Know where you stand each month, quarter and at year-end.  Develop a scorecard to monitor your success, because it’s the only way to know if you’ve reached your goals.

Follow these tips for success and remember that your strategic plan can be a flexible document that can — and should — adjust with your successes, failures or obstacles.

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