Looking from the outside, the purpose of a business and how it should operate may seem fairly obvious, but the reality of building and growing a company is that it takes careful planning, focus, and discipline to create a successful business. While it may seem like there is no need to complicate the basic course of action to set up operations, get clients, and deliver products or services, organizational leaders understand that engaging in strategic planning with regularity is key to short-term, intermediate, and long-term success.
Strategic planning is defined as the process of creating a clear vision with common goals for a business, and establishing a definite path forward by deciding on the strategies, activities and resources that will be used to reach the set objectives. When properly executed, strategic planning helps business leaders decide how to best invest their time, money and resources to achieve goals that will help the business grow. Understanding the key concepts and actions steps behind strategic planning can help you implement a process to map a viable path to your organizational success.
- Engage the right mix of key stakeholders and a skilled facilitator to collaborate on the development of a strategic plan
- Create SMART Goals to clearly state what the company is trying to accomplish through strategic planning
- Evaluate the execution of a strategic plan by regularly tracking, monitoring, and optimizing the progress of plan activities, deliverables, milestones and goals
The When And Who Of A Strategic Plan
Companies should conduct strategic planning regularly to provide direction and create consensus to the organization, based on the state of the business, external influences, and forward looking goals for the next 12 to 18 months. It is also important to update or create a new strategic plan if significant changes are affecting an organization, such as:
- unexpected shifts or trends in the marketplace
- creation and release of a new product or branch of the business
- a merger or acquisition
- changes in key leadership
Because of the frequency of conducting a strategic planning process, companies need to decide on a framework that is scalable and repeatable, with enough flexibility to allow the dynamics or characteristics of the organization to be included and reflected in the strategic plan.
Participation from a variety of stakeholders from throughout the organization is a crucial step for creating a successful strategic plan. While the C-suite executives need to be there, as well as relevant investors if possible, there should be department heads and key influencers from different parts of the business who can offer different perspectives and will have more direct involvement with the steps that need to happen for the plan to be successfully executed.
Creating a strategic plan is a demanding and sometimes challenging process that can become difficult if there are too many people sitting at the table. To optimize the pool of participants involved in the strategic planning process, ask questions to determine if a potential stakeholder should be a part of the stakeholder team.
- Are they a critical player in the company's success?
- Are their contributions clearly and easily defined?
- Is their role or functional contribution growing in importance?
- Do they provide a unique and important perspective or subject matter expertise?
- Can their value be duplicated by a different stakeholder who is already involved in the process?
A facilitator will also be needed to guide the process, whether an internal leader or an outside consultant. It is most important that the person selected for this high-value role has experience at facilitating a strategic plan, knows the framework that will be used to structure the process, and has skills in conflict resolution and communication. Companies who regularly conduct strategic planning may find a particular facilitator that works well with their organization and use them repeatedly to better manage the personalities and communication styles involved, though decision makers should also consider potential value in periodically working with a different facilitator if the process becomes stale or stagnant. Strategic planning should be a fresh and engaging process each and every time, with excellent outcomes.
Use SMART Goals To Create Focus
There will be a number of difficult decisions involved in creating the strategic plan, in no small part because of the variety of priorities, viewpoints, and capabilities that are represented in the process. The framework you select for the completion of the plan will help to navigate through those discussions and debates that are inherent in the process while producing a final product that all stakeholders involved can believe in and support.
A strategic planning framework should include basic sections that lead to actionable outcomes Using a four-part methodology for strategic planning, consider sections that address:
Goals - Develop SMART Goals that will serve as the focal points for the plan
Strategies - Craft one or more strategies used to accomplish each SMART goal, addressing the milestones that contribute to the successful completion of the goal
Execution - Document the activities, one-time tactics, and ongoing processes that will serve as deliverables to achieve the strategies to reach the goal
Resources - Determine the people and tools that are already on hand or are needed to complete the execution activities that deliver the strategies to reach the goal
Monitor And Measure To Ensure Success
While moving through the execution of the strategic plan, you'll want to have a process for measuring its effectiveness. Doing so helps make sure the execution of the plan is progressing appropriately, and that there are no significant gaps between what is expected and what is achieved.
Progress needs to be measured objectively so there is a clear understanding of the successes or challenges in reaching significant milestones and achieving goals. With specific key performance indicators (KPIs) tracking progress along the way, milestones can be high level progress such as tracking to revenue goals for a specific business unit, increasing awareness and engagement to grow marketing qualified leads (MQLs), or establishing an operational program for creating consistent onboarding and training of new employees. Accountability to the execution of a strategic plan highlights visible progress, and demonstrates value from the strategic planning process.
Startup founders and scaleup leaders use the strategic planning process to align business goals and strategies with the company vision and mission. It’s a valuable process to gain consensus, engagement, and accountability toward growing an organization along a structured path, with transparency and clarity to enable everyone within the organization to better understand how their contributions are making a difference. An effective strategic planning process is key to short-term, intermediate, and long-term success.
Want to get started on your company’s strategic plan, but not sure where to begin? Let Sellerant help you figure it out.