Is Your Strategic Plan Collecting Cobwebs?

Is Your Strategic Plan Collecting Cobwebs?

Strategic planning has lost favor in some companies. Sometimes, it is because the strategic plan was developed hastily, without using a thoughtful, disciplined process. And, the end result can wind up on a shelf collecting cobwebs, with the team losing faith in strategic planning itself.

Yet, in today’s fast-moving world, companies that do not plan for the future are vulnerable. As renowned professor and author Michael Porter wrote, “Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.”

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To develop an effective strategic plan, there are 7 key questions to consider before you begin. These questions help pierce through the day-to-day frenzy and go straight to the areas of needed focus for your organization. By identifying the opportunities - and barriers - to success, you’ll begin to lay the framework for a compelling strategic plan.

**Key Strategic Planning Questions **

1.     Do your employees understand your mission, vision, values and strategy?

2.     What are the major current and future issues facing your company?

3.     Is your industry undergoing significant disruption?

4.     Are your company’s financial returns acceptable to your stakeholders?

5.     Who are your target customers and what is your value proposition to them?

6.     Do your company’s operational processes support your goals?

7.     Are the culture and organization aligned with your goals?

While the answers to these questions begin to get at the what of a useful strategic plan, just as important is how you develop the plan. Here are 2 suggestions for setting up a process that starts, and stays, on the right track.

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·       Involve a cross-section of internal and external stakeholders to develop the strategic plan.

A good place to start is to select a group of 6 – 8 senior employees to work with the CEO to talk through the 7 planning questions above and develop a Strategy Map. The Strategy Map reflects the company’s path forward over the next 3 years on a single page. The Strategy Map should include the company’s mission, vision, values and strategy, as well as objectives in 4 key perspectives: financial, customer, internal processes and people and culture. The Map will provide a framework for growth, prioritization and decision-making.

·       Establish a disciplined process to develop, implement and assess progress on the plan.

Once the Map is completed, broaden the process to include key players from staff, the Board of Directors and trusted external experts in areas where the company lacks depth. Establish a process for the team to expand on the Strategy Map and develop a Strategic Plan for the next three years. The depth of the effort should be dictated by the answers to the 7 questions above.

Engaging an experienced, objective third-party advisor to guide the process often yields the best results.

If you take the time to develop a thoughtful strategic plan, involve the key stakeholders, and implement it with discipline, it will be a useful tool to help guide your team and the company to a successful future.

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