Strategic Planning: A Practical Process

Strategic Planning: A Practical Process

Strategic planning can be found in three forms within organizations: The ones without a plan; other with a plan hidden in a drawer; and the very small part that actually plan and follow up. This article will give you insight on how to build a practical and usable strategic plan for your organization.

Do I need Strategic Planning?

We say everyone has a strategic plan in place. It might not be on paper, but it certainly is in your head. From small businesses, to NGOs and large corporations, strategic planning is key to reach long-term goals and don’t drift away from your path.

If when you try to write down your plan it seems difficult, it’s because you don’t have enough information to plan accordingly, or you don’t know how to do it. We’ll get your covered with the second problem, the first we can help too with our consulting services.

Strategic planning roadmap

strategic planning roadmap

Ideally a strategic plan is created by a group of individuals from an organization (external help is welcome) over the course of several meetings. Even that topics are open to discussion, the main executive (or equivalent) is responsible for calling the final decision. Someone has to do it, and once a priority is set, all the team should commit to that decision. Who never saw a marketing v. finance discussion?

Organizational Principles

This first step is probably the most underrated but sets the key-rules for the organization to operate, know when it has gone too far and when it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

On this step there are four basic concepts that should be clearly outlined.

Mission Statement

The Mission Statement is the most important of the organization’s principles. It defines the ultimate goal for an organization. It should be inspirational and open-ended. If can find out more about the Mission Statement on this article.

Vision Statement

If the Mission Statement should be open-ended, the Vision Statement should have a clear expiry date and one clear important goal. Also, this goal should pretty much guarantee that other minor goals are met as well. That’s why financials or market share are commonly used here. More info.

Values (Ethics)

This one is a list of 5 to 7 items which describe in bullet points the ethics of the organization, such as: Honesty, customer satisfaction, efficiency, commitment to quality, etc. In general, they describe how people from the organization should behave and look for.

Business

This topic describes briefly the line of business of an organization. This, however, can be tricky, as the actual business of the organization might not be what it actually looks like.

As an example, an important chocolate manufacturer defines their business as “gifts”. Pretty simple, right? But their product is chocolate, so why gifts? By defining their business as “gifts” they set some business principles. First their are not stuck with chocolate. Second, their chocolate is premium, the packaging is premium and you can’t find them at Walmart. Their chocolate is priced at 20 times the price of your regular Hershey’s bar because of that.

One last aspect, also valid for the chocolate example, is that you business definition should be somewhat broad. Ideally you shouldn’t change your business definition for a long-time, even if technology advances arise, for example. Le’s say your a cell phone manufacturer, your business shouldn’t be “mobile phones” or “smartphones”, but “facilitating communication”, which can lead to other products and probably won’t be much affected by technology since humans will probably always keep communicating with each other, just the means will change.

Milestones

Generally, milestones are key-goals, which combined will meet the vision of the company. For each year (or as adequate according to the organization), there should be 3 to 5 of these milestones in the strategic plan.

Let’s say one of your goals is to have a revenue of $100 million by 2022. And currently, in 2018, you’re at $60 million. So the milestones could be: $70M for 2019; $80M for 2020; $90M for 2021; and finally $100 million for 2022.

Projects

Projects are pretty much like milestones, but they are not easily measured by numbers. They should also represent an important development in your organization. Let’s say “start operations in the United Kingdom” or “buy the X competitor”. They should be planned and followed-up according to schedules, budgets and, responsabilities.

Goals

With the vision statement and important milestones set. Now it’s time for your to set individual goals for each of the company’s main strategic areas: Finance, Marketing, Operations and HR. Many authors also add a 5th area: Quality. We believe that it depends on the industry, but anyways, it can be squeezed within Marketing or Operations. For the sake of simplicity we prefer using just the first four we mentioned.

Strategic Planning Pyramid

Ultimately, goals will be used to assign responsibilities to your team, define the main Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of the organization and define the balanced scorecard.

Balanced Scorecards (BSC)

A BSC (Balanced Scorecard) is a tool used to give a score to the performance of an organization, a department and even an individual (like a manager, or a salesperson). We dive in more depth about scorecards, in this article here.

Review

There are no general rules on how often an organization should review their goals. But we generally recommend that you do it a follow-up every month, correction plans and actions on a quarterly basis and a general review of the full plan every year.

Keep in mind that a goal is set to be achieved. So be reluctant to adapt goals, specially downwards. However, if you feel that a given goal can’t be met at all, consider revising it only if there’s an external factor that affected that goal. If the goal was not met due to some inefficiency in the organization, it should be left intact.

Conclusion

The idea of this article was to give you a general walk through strategic planning process. If you have questions about a specific topic or have a suggestion on how to improve this text. Please let us know by contacting us.

 

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