It’s easy to forget how fundamental strategic planning is – we may even be tempted to forgo it these days, when business and the world are changing so fast that it can seem futile to lay down any real plans.
But when we don’t take planning seriously, we can mess up fast. Good planning can make or break an entity –partly because the process of planning together itself can be an important cooperative and team-strengthening exercise, but also because laying down a road map helps you keep your vision strong and focused, avoid risks, act on opportunities, zero in on performance problems, and discover new paths ahead.
With a plan, you know if your bus is on the right road – or if you need to change buses completely.
On the other hand, a strategic planning process can be a frustrating, unproductive waste of time.
The results you get will depend largely on how you prepare for the process. You can’t afford the time or money for your process to be less than successful, so taking time to prepare is a worthwhile investment.
So – position yourself, your planning team, and your company for the best results. These 10 Essential Elements can help you position for a successful strategic planning process:
- Involve people with diverse perspectives
People with different experiences and viewpoints will help you think differently – you’ll see opportunities and challenges your team may miss.
- Be absolutely clear on what matters most
If you’re not absolutely certain about the value proposition of your company or organization – why you’re here, why you do what you do and for whom, how you articulate your competitive advantage – figure it out now. You can’t plan effectively if you can’t define this clearly.
- Think very long term, then work backward to a practical near-term planning horizon
You’re not just planning for a year out. Steps you take today in response to your recognition of emerging threats or opportunities have an impact on your future. Are there economical steps you can take now, to turn potential long term negative impacts into current and long-term profit?
- Begin with an inspiring vision for success
Set your goals high, and be clear about how you envision success. When you’ve got a planning team that’s inspired by a vision, they’ll be energized about bringing their best game to the planning effort.
- Engineer for implementation
The greatest plan won’t work if it can’t be implemented. Define your strategic objectives with some thought about how they will be implemented.
- Get out of your own way
Be as objective as you can be, and don’t afraid to be critical of existing structures, processes, and performance. You may have inadvertently created the very things that are barriers now to your success. Be willing to recognize where change is needed, and to make the changes that will get you to your vision.
- Develop a communication plan to articulate appropriate messages to your audiences
If the outcome of your strategic planning results in organizational change, you will need to communicate that to the right people, in the right order. As part of the planning process, design a thoughtful, strategic communication plan to be launched at the conclusion of the process.
- Step back and conduct a “sanity check”
Get a second – or third or fourth – opinion about the evolving strategies. Engage trusted advisors of your choosing in meaningful dialogue about alternative courses of action and related risks.
- Strengthen your implementation capabilities
Make sure you’ve got people with strong leadership and enterprise project management skills, the ability to communicate consistently and appropriately, and crystal clarity on the goals and vision so they can effectively implement the strategies your planning process identifies.
- Keep your eye on the ball
Monitor the implementation progress quantitatively, objectively, and regularly so you can maintain focus on executing the plan and react quickly if changes are needed.