Success just never happens on its own. It is a metamorphosis of circumstances, attitudes, environments, situations, etc. that has to culminate into a strategic plan. For any business to be sustainable, it must have a clear approach to generating growth and profits that ensure long-term success. To achieve this, a planning process is required that starts with evaluation, moves on to communication and finally, culminates in implementation.
- Include the right people:
To ensure success, select the right people to be included in the process. Make sure you include those who can, and will, contribute positively to the content of your resultant plan. They must be able to drive the successful implementation of the strategies within the plan. Ensure that all key departments (e.g., sales, service, finance, processing, manufacturing, etc.) are represented. This ensures that a realistic plan with a common goal is developed.
- Venue is important:
Select a venue that is free from interruptions and distractions and is comfortable in order for the attendees to feel relaxed enough to concentrate. It’s too easy to step down the passage to check a message, and return much, much later, so it is always advisable to get away from your business premises.
- Think through the Planning Meeting:
Develop an agenda and appoint someone impartial to facilitate the discussion. Agree upfront that creativity is important, so no idea will be immediately judged as impractical or silly. Appoint someone to write down the minutes of what the group discusses and decides upon.
- Allow enough time:
Strategic thinking involves thoughtful discussion and this simply takes time. If rushed, you may end up with an inferior plan.
5. Assess the Current Business Environment:
To aid success, have the team members participate in pre-planning surveys to come up with issues for possible discussion. Look at some of the factors outside the company that can affect its performance. Focus on areas such as economic forecasts, industry developments and marketplace trends, as well as a review of the competition. Formulate assumptions about the future of these areas and what impact these assumptions will have on your business. Remember, asking for their input implies a promise to feed back. If you forget that feedback, they’ll feel cheated.
- Do a SWOT Analysis:
Strategic planners use this technique to help them assess the business’ external environments and internal capacity. Discuss these questions:
- Strengths: What are the advantages of your company and products? What do you do well? What do you have that your competitors don’t? What is it about your relationship with your customers that you can use to your advantage?
- Weaknesses: Where is there room for improvement? Where does your company mess up? How would the marketplace describe your weaknesses? What does the competition have that you don’t?
- Opportunities: What’s happening out there that you can capitalise on? What new, useful technologies are coming? What changes in buying or usage habits can be exploited?
- Threats: What outside events or competitors are waiting to hit you when you’re not looking? What potentially harmful regulations are on the horizon?
- Define (or Redefine) the Company’s Mission:
A mission statement (usually no more than one or two sentences) describes the purpose of the organisation and enables all stakeholders to share the same view of the company’s goals, philosophy and future direction. It should include the:
- Reason why the company exists
- Products and services offered
- Customer segments served
- Nature and location of the business’s marketing territory
- Areas of specialisation
- Future direction of the company
- Educate your Team:
Make sure everybody understands the definition, and the importance, of terms – like, “mission” and “objective.” And make sure they all understand the critical role they play in both strategy development and strategy implementation to achieve success.
- Create an Action Plan:
Arrange the company’s objectives and tactics into key areas. This becomes easier to process and prioritise them, to allocate resources and to coordinate with other areas. Develop objectives that describe the conditions the organisation wishes to achieve, taking care to make them as quantifiable as possible. Clarify and quantify the tactics needed to accomplish these objectives.
- Communicate your strategy:
Once you’ve developed your strategic plan, let your team know of your strategy. Remember, it is they who will help with its implementation. Keep reminding them on a continual basis.
11. Create a Budget for your Plan:
Link your strategic plan to your budgeting process. Estimate the resources required to accomplish all of the action steps – thus implement the strategy. Those resources should include: people, money, facilities and equipment. Any decisions, strategies and tactics that you decide on will affect revenues and expenses to differing degrees. You need to consider the potential impact of each objective on both, to be able to prioritise them in future budgets. So your budgeting cycle should ideally follow your strategy development and your action plan development.
- Create realistic Completion Dates:
Never set extremely ambitious timelines. In most cases, the tactics you’ve agreed on will be accomplished by people who already have a full day’s work. Each employee must be given sufficient time to achieve the specific objectives assigned to him or her, or the plan will quickly be viewed as impossible to accomplish.
- Nominate a Coordinator:
A coordinator should be appointed for the strategic plan to ensure that maximum and sustained results are achieved. This person must be responsible for bringing together the various pieces into one comprehensive plan and to monitor the entire progress of the process.
- Strategic planning is a process:
Once you’ve developed the plan, your work is just beginning. Implementation is where the majority of your time and resources are spent. Take the implementation seriously and integrate your plan into the day-to-day operation of your business.
- Develop a Contingency Plan:
Brainstorm any anticipated issues that could arise and develop contingency plans for them. Take inventory of your resources before problems arise so you know what tools you have at your disposal. Be creative. Think of at least one additional way to meet the desired goal so as not to be boxed in by one plan. Bear in mind that it is impossible to anticipate every possible contingency. By being flexible, you will identify different options and opportunities that may assist in moving forward and ensuring success.
- Keep your plan alive:
Have your team develop specific action steps to implement the strategy. Monitor the progress of those action steps at quarterly review meetings. It’s simple enough to develop a strategy, and quite another to implement it. Careful and consistent management is very necessary for success.
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