Strategic planning only helps organizations when they are kept active and implemented. The strategic plan defines the business direction. That direction is based on the future, the vision of the company. Before an effective strategic plan can be developed a clear and compelling vision is needed. Visions are optimistic, the ideal picture of the future. The strategic plan that results from the leadership team’s strategic planning is the map to that vision and then it is only effective if it is implemented.
Strategic plans can sound intimidating and overwhelming to many small business owners. The most effective strategic plans are those that are simple, completed with the leadership team and key people in the company. Complex documents that consume excessive amounts of time to create don’t guarantee success. In fact, the large and cumbersome strategic plan can be so overwhelming that it just doesn’t work. Strategic planning sessions that go on and on for months also fail because so much time is consumed in the planning and the implementation, which is the key, is pushed aside. The goal to have the perfect strategic plan doesn’t produce results. Instead, the team that engages in strategic planning and produces a good working document is more likely to succeed.
To create your strategic plan:
Start with vision. Write down what you envision for the future. What does the future of your business look like? What do you want for the future? Vision stories are inspiring, it’s your dream. Once you have created your vision you can begin building strategies.
The vision is the destination, where you are going. The strategies are the map that gets you to the vision. Company values are the guide or the “compass” in our map metaphor for making decisions along the way. Values keep you oriented and in alignment. When values are out of alignment the company is off track; not moving in the direction of the vision.
Strategic goals can be limited to the top 6-10. By having fewer goals the plan is able to stay alive and in front of you and the team. By alive, it means that the plan is always where you can see it, use it and keep working on it. It means that the team is focused on the strategic goals at all times, talking about them, brainstorming on them and reporting to each other their successes and challenges.
To set strategies for your business first look at the vision, the different aspects of the vision. Brainstorm all of the goals, all of the strategies for each aspect of the vision. With brainstorming it is important to get all of the ideas out and write them down without judging them or editing them. Often the best idea comes from an idea that at first look seemed too wild or crazy. Ideas jump off of other ideas.
Once you have brainstormed all of the possible goals, prioritize them. Often strategic goals can be grouped with similar strategies. This can help in the prioritization process. The goal is to narrow the list down to the top 6-10 strategies. What are the goals or strategies that will give your business the future you envision, that will create a breakthrough that will produce the results that you want? Those are the goals that you should be selecting as top priorities.
Creating a powerful strategic plan is just one of the first steps. Many organizations have strategic plans that are well thought out and crafted. Where they fall short is in the implementation of that plan. Implementation is the key. If you fail to implement, the results will not be what you set out to achieve.
Implementation is the result of focused and continuous action. Strategic plans don’t just happen on their own: they require your attention. By keeping the plan in front of you and the team responsible for the plan, focus is maintained. Regular meetings about the plan also keep the plan moving in the right direction. Check-in meetings hold people accountable. When teams don’t meet and don’t keep their eye on the plan, the day to day interferes and the status quo remains. In order to make changes in the results that you achieve there has to be intention and commitment on the part of the team. The check-in meeting gives the team the opportunity to review what is happening, what is interfering with the results they want and need and make the changes necessary to change the outcomes. Through the intention of the leadership, the plan and the team, the culture of the workplace can shift from one of non-performance to one of performance focused.
Performance focused companies are companies that are thriving. The energy of high performing teams shifts the energy of the whole organization. It becomes more positive and contagious. People become excited about the vision, the plan and their implementation of the plan. Results create energy and excitement that keeps the plan moving, it propels the plan and the ultimate results of the company.