Strategy is fundamental to successful businesses and cuts across all operational functions.
The business strategy sets out the direction the business should go, its mission and goals; then, plans for how the business will work toward those goals and missions.
Your strategic plan should focus on mid to long-term goals, and set the future direction, rather than focusing on short term wins. Your strategy shouldn’t just be left to gather dust. There are many reasons and occasions to revisit your strategy. Whether that be in times of change in the business, when launching a new service or product, to turn around a failing business, or when expanding your business, services or products.
As we have all learnt from the year 2020, no amount of planning or forecasting can predict what the future will bring. However, one thing is for certain, businesses face challenging times ahead; but those who are agile, innovative and resilient are the ones who will not only survive but thrive and grow.
To get started, you don’t need any fancy tools or software for strategic planning. Some good old-fashioned structured discussions with flip-charts and post-it notes will set you on the right path.
To start tackling your strategic planning process, define these 10 key areas:
- Scope of plans needed – what are we planning for and how with this integrate with other plans/business areas /teams/ objectives etc – set the boundaries but acknowledge the connectivity.
- Key stakeholders – who will influence the plans, who will implement them and who will be affected by them?
- Key actors – who are the likely sponsors, advocates, participants and potential opponents?
- Objectives – what do we want to achieve, why and by when, what is achievable given the budget and resources available?
- Size of the Prize – be realistic but have a stretch target. Be sure that the potential return is truly worth the investment, energy, resources and any disruption that will be needed. Would these plans support/facilitate or prevent/derail other activities and what are the overall implications of this?
- Appetite – does the wider business and/or the critical people buy into the plans, will we get the support, funding & resources to deliver the plans in a realistic timescale?
- SMART Measures & Metrics – how will we know if we are making progress? How and how frequently will we review this? What will success look like? What signs/outcomes would set alarm bells ringing?
- Hearts and Minds – are we carrying the team, customers, investors, consumers etc with us? How will they be part of delivering the plans successfully, are they willing, committed, enthusiastic and feel included in our future?
- Quick wins & hard climbs – what can we deliver quickly to prove the plans are worthwhile, create momentum and keep up levels of enthusiasm or investment needed. What will be the hardest things to achieve and how do we tackle these.
- Threats, Risks & Barriers – what could go wrong, what could get in our way, how might our competitors respond, how might key customers react? Risk assess likelihood and impact and seek ways we could mitigate against these factors
There are various approaches to doing this – some bottom-up and some top-down. It depends on the situation and the personalities involved.
Sometimes – if things aren’t likely too controversial and you want the benefits of varied experience and perspectives – it works to bring people together and thrash things out as a team or wider group. Sometimes you have to pick people off one by one due to sensitivities, personality conflicts or clashing objectives or views!
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