As businesses confront increasing competition during challenging times, there seems to be a renewed interest in strategic planning. Strategic plans create a road map to determine where an organization is going, how it’s going to get there and how it will recognize success.
Following are eight phases for the strategic planning process.
- Get Ready. Identify reasons for planning and involve a cross-functional team to ensure the plan is realistic and collaborative.
- Mission, Vision and Values. Create them if you don’t have them and ensure they are still relevant if they already exist.
- Assess Your Situation. Often referred to as a “SWOT” (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), this is a tool to examine internal (strengths and weaknesses) and external (opportunities and threats) elements of a business. By reviewing all these factors as they relate to your business, you are able to create key objectives to leverage strengths, minimize weaknesses, capitalize on opportunities and evaluate threats.
- Agree on Goals and Objectives. A great definition is “the difference between where we are (current status) and where we want to be (vision and goals) is what we do (target objectives and action plans). In other words, goals are a statement of the visions, specifying accomplishments to be achieved if the vision is to become real. Objectives are statements of specific activities required to achieve the goals, starting from the current status.
- Create Action Plans and Timelines. Action planning typically includes deciding who is going to do what and by when and in what order for the organization to reach its strategic goals.
- Write the Plan. Complicated plans that don’t fit your organization’s culture will collect dust on a shelf. A simple, user-friendly format will encourage those responsible for implementation to refer to it frequently.
- Implement the Plan. This is often where things fall apart so it’s imperative to specify the plan’s implementation roles and responsibilities with clear action plans for at least the first 90 days. Also, integrating the plan’s goals and objectives into performance reviews creates a powerful incentive.
- Evaluate and Monitor the Plan. Strategies are not set in stone and can be modified based on progress made, obstacles encountered, and the changing environment.
Paving a path is a key ingredient to business success. As Jack Kinder said, “High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.”
Cathy Goddard is the Principal of Lighthouse Visionary Strategies, a consulting firm dedicated to tangible solutions for small business and individuals alike. With expertise in business and strategic planning, mentorship networks and workshop facilitation, Cathy also delivers powerful keynote presentations and writes a weekly business column for the Whistler Question newspaper.