Many business owners purposefully decide not to engage in strategic planning. If this includes you or your clients, I bet it’s because you have seen others who have spent a great deal of time, energy and money developing a plan so complex that it is never implemented or you feel it is just a waste of time.
In my experience, bypassing strategic planning is a mistake. A truly useful plan gives guidance to everyone in the company on what the goals are, how they were developed, who is in charge of implementation and when everyone can expect to see results. That kind of direction provides employees a feeling of security and a clear picture of the company’s success now and in the future. Couldn’t we all use that kind of direction right now?
As a business owner and a member of our law firm’s strategic planning team, I’ve developed what I feel are effective short-cuts that allow you to create a really practical and useful plan. My tips are as follows:
1. If this is your first foray into strategic planning, you may find it useful to work with someone who has experience in simple strategic planning, especially someone who has done it for their own business. You might look for a facilitator who is not a strategic planning trainer by trade, but a business owner or business advisor who really gets business strategy; especially in your industry. An outside facilitator helps prevent you from getting bogged down in detail, gives you the perspective of people who are not directly employed by your business, and provides unexpectedly valuable ideas and advice. You may not always agree with their perspective, but I have found that people who think “outside of the box” (admittedly a cliché) bring valuable ideas and energy to the table.
2. In addition to a facilitator, a cross-section of 4-6 other people on your strategic planning team are critical. The team should include: 1) your organization’s “ultimate decision maker,” 2) someone who can direct and oversee actual implementation, and 3) a few additional open minded, forward thinking, and highly respected individuals. I keep these last descriptions vague because your choices will vary depending on your employees and your company’s culture.
3. On your first time through, you might consider tackling basic stuff that’s relatively easy to accomplish but important to get out of the way before you can become truly “strategic.” This will set you up for success right out of the gate and for preparing to get to the heart of things. It’s almost a “pre-strategic plan.”
4. A useful strategic plan typically involves maintaining flexibility and open minds. So don’t get frustrated if everything doesn’t work out as planned in the beginning; just modify and keep moving.
5. It is critical that you actually take effective and timely action on the plans. So, make your action items as straightforward as possible and assign due dates to everything. Again, you’ll need someone to keep you on task and monitor the due dates.
6. Also, if implementation is to actually work, your leadership team should be given simple and specific weekly action items to reach interim milestones that lead up to your bigger five-year goals.
7. Once the plan is developed, you’ll need short (1 hour)monthly “maintenance” meetings to confirm implementation is on track. This also helps you identify and address any roadblocks, changes or other issues that may cause you to reevaluate things well in advance of an emergency situation arising.
I first learned about strategic planning by attending a two-day comprehensive workshop. I found this very helpful, but boiled the process down even more as set forth above. I have found that a really good facilitator, a dynamic team, short planning sessions, clear deadlines and my own team’s gut instincts have served us just as well in actual practice. This has improved our firm’s and many of my clients’ businesses, even in these difficult times. I hope you will consider whether it may also benefit you and your clients.
For further information regarding these matters, please contact Ms. Umphrey at 248.619.2591 or [email protected]