Effective strategic planning may be the toughest hurdle to conquer in the business world. Let’s face it, the day-to-day operations can be overwhelming enough and often really critical parts of the planning process are skipped over because of time constraints. Then, there is the sobering realty that most companies lack the mindset, the assets, and/or the appetite to devote to strategic and operational planning. Strip away all of these points and we are left with the all important question… “What do successful businesses have in common?” And the answer is, they all have a strong commitment to measurements/ data and strategic planning.
In a national study recently completed by Premier Development Solutions and Naviga Business Services, 32.4 percent of the 33,000 executives surveyed nationally said less than half of their entire management team can effectively articulate their individual top four measurable priorities.
By evaluating and monitoring your business, you can change your results on all levels. Strategic planning is literally the roadmap to your company’s future. You will have to scrutinize all aspects of your company from your vision and mission all the way through to your values. Do this and you’ll know what needs to be done to achieve your goals. In essence, you are about to change “the rules of the game”.
This stage of your planning will not produce results. Rather it will serve a larger purpose by aligning your executive team, which then will set the stage for the long-term course. The dialogue is critical at this stage as it will help your senior leaders “buy into” the plan by adapting, focusing, and committing to the plan wholeheartedly. Some tips you may pick up on are:
1. Analyze results from the past three years
- Revisit your Vision/Mission Statement.
- What market changes have occurred in the last 2-3 years?
- What are the changing needs of your customers?
- Study your competition.
- Unique Selling Proposition (USP)- what differentiates you in the marketplace?
- Assess your internal systems.
- Complete a detailed “SWOT” assessment.
- What key seats do you not have filled with top talent?
- Conduct a management talent review
2. Consider alternatives to current problems or opportunities
- Awareness: What part of management thinking has contributed to current problems?
- Analysis: What new thinking must exist to define a new direction?
- Discuss: What are alternative scenarios for key variables?
3. Mapping the new direction
- What does the market analysis project for the next 3-5 years?
- Does your current business model require revision?
- How does your company’s USP relate to the marketplace of the future?
4. Benchmarking – a new type of leadership
- Identify the top two or three companies (not in your industry) that are “best in class” and visit them to learn from their success.
- The quality of your benchmarking trip will be in direct proportion to the amount of time spent planning the visit.
- Do you have the right members on your management team?
Operational Planning is the “how” stage that holds the keys telling you how you will implement your strategic plan. Ideally, the operational plan should be completed during the first quarter. Another important facet of the operational plan is to identify the key resources required, including the matching budget and key performance indicators.
Nearly 27 percent of the business executives responding to our survey said their company is not converting their strategic plan into an operational plan to ensure their organization is properly aligned.
Designing the Operational Plan
1. Identify the forces working for and against your new thinking
2. Test your thinking against the workings of effective strategies:
- Know your competition
- Have contingencies
- Match competitive situations
- Be consistent
- Be realistic
- Leverage resources
3. Build motivation
4. Concentrate full resources
5. Maintain total communication
6. Conserve scarce resources
7. Match company values
8. Utilize all information and intelligence
9. Combine all strategical components
10. Identify who is responsible for which elements of the plan
11. Analyze operations, key performance indicators, budgets, and department/divisional action plans
12. Develop an implementation timeline
13. Design and execute a company-wide communication plan
Performance Management Planning
By this point, you should have mapped out the next 3-4 years and have designed an operational plan. You have a clear idea of HOW you are going to implement the strategic plan. And you have a plan to help your teams and individuals understand their roles.
You are now at a critical point in your plan. Most organizations will try to use their performance management system and, unfortunately, this is where the plan too often falls short. Leaders at all levels fundamentally dislike their organizational performance management system for the same three reasons:
1. The system is too complicated
2. Leaders do not hold leaders accountable for using the system effectively
3. Most leaders are not very effective at providing consistent and valuable feedback
All the planning in the world will go down the drain if no one can state the top three priorities they must accomplish every day and what the company’s top three priorities are for the year.
Last is a reality check. The likelihood a company will achieve its strategic plan lies in the review of the operational budget to determine whether the required funds for success are allocated.
Basic keys to success
→ A external business advisor, to help design and facilitate offsite planning retreats
→ A commitment, by the CEO, to the planning process
→ The undisputed participation of management
→ A well designed and implemented communication plan for the entire organization
→ A performance management system that holds leaders accountable
→ An effective one page organizational / management scorecard
Conclusion: Your company’s ability to consistently execute at a high level is very unlikely unless you can effectively get everyone on the same page- pointed in the same direction.
John Lankford was recognized as the 2007-2010 Associate Business Advisor of the Year in North America and brings proven executive experience and best practices to select companies every year. He served 18 years at the Executive Education Center at Ford Motor Company and is former Senior Director of Ascension Health Learning Institute. John has developed top leaders around the world in partnership with the University of Michigan Business School, the Center for Creative Leadership, Comcast University and GE University, to name a few.
His business expertise has been tapped by prominent business media such as the New York Times, CBS and Dbusiness magazine and has been a syndicated business columnist. He is the author of Superstar for life…Career Transitions. John’s keynote speaking has landed him on the elite team that trains and certifies the new Executive Sales Coaches joining the worldwide coaching community. John is also former Chief Executive Officer of the Innisbrook Leadership Institute.
Lankford can be reached at email@example.com or call (888) 730-1950