I’ve done a lot of research into the subject of strategic planning. There are many theories about what is the best way to develop a plan. There is the “basis” method, scenario planning, organic planning, and bottom up planning, among others. There are even software programs to “self develop” your strategic plan.
So what is the best practice?
After studying the subject and developing literally hundreds of plans both for my businesses and client organizations I think I can say it doesn’t matter what method you use as long as you follow a basic roadmap and think it through.
As I said in my writings you need to start at the end. You need to agree upon a vision for the organization. Any journey begins with an end in mind. You simply have to determine where it is you want to go in the next three to five years. This is a key first step that many if not most organizations don’t do. I’ve heard things like if we decide on a specific direction we might miss opportunities in another direction.
My response to that is if you don’t decide on a general vision, you waste time, energy and capital resources chasing tempting diversions that may of may not fit. Scenario planning mentioned above can be used as a supplement to a plan, but overall you need to decide what your organization will look like in the future. You may plan for various market or competitive influences but only to the degree of how they may impact your overall vision.
After deciding where it is you’re going you need to clearly understand where you are now. A thorough S.L.O.T. analysis looking at internal strengths and limitations as well as external threats and opportunities is essential for step three. You wouldn’t begin a road trip without knowing where you want to go and then developing a solid beginning point, why is a roadmap for your organization any different?
Step three is clear, crisp, timed, goals designed to get you from where you are to attainment of your vision.
Having a clear vision makes decision making, investment, management incentives all easier. You simply ask your self does this decision, investment or program move me closer to or further away form attainment of my vision?
The most difficult portion of any planning process is establishing and agreeing upon a vision. It’s difficult to put a stake in the ground for the future of your organization with so many fast occurring variables in today’s marketplace. But my view is you can decide your future or have it decided for you. Like the old saying goes, “which would you rather be the wind or the weather vane”?
Whatever method fits your organization I have just a few hard suggestions:
1. Begin with the end in mind
2. Document the plan
3. Communicate the vision and the plan
4. Implement the plan (studies show over 90% of organizations don’t)
5. Review progress to the plan on a regular basis
6. Align people, processes and incentives with the vision in mind
7. If you can’t be objective about internal and external analysis get outside help
You can sit back and react to circumstances or you can invent your organization’s future.