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Strategic planning for the real world

Strategic planning has gotten a bad rap, and probably deservedly so. If you believe the research more than 50% of organizations don’t have a documented strategic plan. My view is, of those that do the majority aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.

Why? Because most organizations simply don’t know how to plan.

There is usually a mission statement developed to please all stakeholders and to ultimately be placed on the company website and brochures for marketing purposes. After that there is usually some futuristic stuff based on revenue and sales forecasts that talk about growth. No real direction and not much talk about how the sales forecasts will be accomplished.

A strategic plan for the real world has to be better than that. It has to have clarity, goals and be used to drive accountability. Think of it as planning a vacation road trip. First decide where you want to go, determine where you are now, and then write down what it will take to get you from point A to point B.

Start with a clear vision, what will your business look like in five years? How many people and locations will you have? What markets will you be in? What will be your unique selling proposition? Take all of that and boil it down to a few sentences that you can keep in front of all stakeholders all the time.

Acme manufacturing will double sales from $10MM to $20MM in the coming 5 years and will be a world-class manufacturer of rubber ducks is not a vision statement. It’s more of a wish statement.

Acme manufacturing will develop a seamless sales and distribution network that will facilitate sales growth by at least 100%. We will be known as the highest quality on-time manufacturer of rubber ducks and other complementary bath leisure products in our industry.

Now this is somewhat better. It speaks about what you want to be, and what you need to provide to get there.

After developing the vision statement, you do an in-depth S.W.O.T analysis to determine where you are now and what’s keeping you from being the world’s top selling supplier of rubber ducks.

You boil the S.W.O.T analysis down into 5 or 6 critical goal categories, and develop clear crisp timed goals to be accomplished over the next twelve to eighteen months to get you on the road to your vision.

You meet on a regular basis and review progress to goals. Are they on track, if now what needs to happen to get them on track? Are the assumptions still valid? Does everyone understand the vision and buy into it? Regular review and reinforcement is paramount to execution.

When the goals are met in 12 to 18 months sit down and review the plan, you should be well on your way to achieving your vision. You are a perhaps a third of the way down your chosen path, is it still valid? Did your market assumptions for rubber duck sales hold true? What other products or services will be a good fit?

Do the S.W.O.T. analysis based on the updated information and start the goals process again.

Effective strategic planning is a process not a one-time exercise. Understanding that change may be necessary and leadership and accountability are needed to drive execution are key first steps to effective strategy.

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