Startups, scaleups, and even mature organizations pursuing a path to success need to have a strategic plan. A strategic plan aligns and informs team members and stakeholders. It provides a framework to optimize time, budgets and resources necessary to achieve organizational goals. A strategic plan serves as a prescribed and actionable path to move from the current state to the desired state.
An effective strategic plan is anchored by a current state analysis. It is a ‘reality check’ of how an organization is performing at a moment in time. This reflective snapshot is an analysis of key stakeholder inputs and documented performance data to illuminate the strengths and weaknesses that impact progress toward goals.
Investing in a current state analysis as part of the strategic planning process can produce cost savings, time savings and a clear and measurable path toward reaching organizational goals. Omitting a current state analysis will forego a clear understanding of where an organization is right now, and make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to develop the right path for achieving its goals.
A current state analysis does not have to be expensive or complicated, but it does need to be collaborative, with a few “must have” guidelines to provide value as part of the strategic planning process.
Include Stakeholders and Influencers
Stakeholders are key leaders who have the ability, knowledge, and influence to affect the strategic direction of your organization. These are the decision-makers who know, interact with and understand your customers. Stakeholders include:
- Executive team members
- Leaders from marketing, sales, production, delivery, operations, and other team members from critical departments
Influencers are other leaders within your organization who can shape strategic effectiveness, and who also deserve a seat at the table. They may not be decision-makers but may have insights that can change the way your company evolves. Influencers include:
- Rising stars who are next-generation leaders
- Investors and Board members
- Outside vendors who are trusted advisors
Include between three and twelve stakeholders and influencers who represent a variety of ideas and insights for this process. Involving too few can result in not enough input and a narrow view of your current state that may result in missing critical issues and inhibiting the ability to achieve goals. Involving too many stakeholders can become unwieldy, with a “too many cooks” problem that can water down meaningful input or unique perspectives, resulting in an inaccurate current state analysis and disenfranchised team members.
- Balance your selection of stakeholders and influencers based on the unique value they bring to the process
- Ensure they can dedicate the necessary, focused, and uninterrupted time to the process with a strong ability to collaborate
- Include team members who are problem solvers and leaders, as well as those who have enough experience to bring new ideas into the fold
Anyone who is an essential part of driving the future direction of the organization is likely to be a valuable contributor and key stakeholder as a part of the current state analysis.
Gather Quantitative and Qualitative Information
Once you determine who will contribute, you need to gather the information that will help you determine your current state. The right inputs will be a combination of quantitative and qualitative information.
Quantitative data and documentation that reflect performance are essential for a current state analysis, no matter the size or stage of the organization. It is definitive and measurable, and may include:
- Financials and projections
- Inventory assessments
- Website analytics
- Other performance measures
The more detailed the documents, the more value they bring to the process. Quantitative data should be gathered from across your company's lifespan to show a trajectory and offer the most complete picture of your company’s health.
Qualitative information can be gathered through one-on-one and group discussions with leadership and stakeholders. Participants must be willing to:
- Speak candidly and in detail about what they know, see and hear about the organization
- Avoid assigning blame or becoming defensive
This qualitative narrative can uncover perspectives, differences, inaccurate assumptions or even misalignment between team members who work together every day. The interview and discussion process should not only highlight successes but reveal some humbling truths about the business that offers room for improvement. Constructive honesty frequently leads to new ideas and business opportunities as an outcome of the current state analysis process.
The most valuable findings during a current state analysis will come from comparing hard data with personal insights because the combination provides essential context.
Identify Similarities and Differences To Create Insights
No matter how busy a stakeholder team may be, it is essential that everyone who takes part in the current state analysis process is committed to giving their time and attention throughout. The more effort that is put into the process will generate a better and more accurate output as your starting place for strategic planning.
- Gather the quantitative and qualitative inputs
- Compile the information, identifying both similarities and differences
A ‘check the box,’ approach to the current state analysis will not provide the thought leadership and direction needed to add value. Instead, make sure key stakeholders and influencers are committed to the analysis and discussion of similarities and differences between respondents to reach agreement on organizational insights, trends and opportunities.
The current state analysis will not only provide a valuable picture of performance but serves as a catalyst for reinforcing organizational values, alignment and goals. Getting the team on the same page, with the same perspective and using the same language for your brand and your business is a beneficial outcome of your investment into a current state analysis. Performing a current state analysis can often serve as a transformation exercise for companies because it reveals the ‘hidden-in-plain-sight’ inefficiencies that can handicap growth, as well as the differences in perception that can prevent a company from achieving goals. With honest self-awareness, a current state analysis presents a snapshot of investments in time, effort and resources as a starting point for goal setting, and a critical part of strategic planning.