Many companies right now are arranging their business development and strategic planning for the year ahead. But what will make taking this precious time out of your business a real success for you and make sure you get the outcomes you desire? Here’s ten things to take into account:
Carefully select the members of your planning team.
Use two criteria for selection – first make sure you include those who can, and will, contribute positively to the content of your plan. Second, make sure you also include those who are positioned to drive the successful implementation of the strategies within the plan.
Involve employees beyond those on your planning team.
Ask them for help. Have them participate in pre-planning surveys to suggest issues for discussion at your up-coming strategy sessions. Be sure to offer them feedback on the outcome of those sessions. Remember, asking for their input implies a promise to provide feedback. If you forget that feedback, they’ll feel cheated.
Gather relevant information prior to your strategy session.
Have your planning team think through the issues you’re likely to discuss at your up-coming strategy session – and decide on the information they’ll need to make decisions. This analysis should cover economic forecasts, industry developments and marketplace trends, as well as a review of the competition. Formulate assumptions about the future and the impact these assumptions may have on your business.
Hold your strategy session away from your office.
Avoid the interruptions and distractions which so often arise during planning sessions. The meeting will be more effective in a comfortable place, free from interruptions and distractions. It’s best to get away from your business premises. Develop an agenda and appoint someone impartial to facilitate the discussion.
Educate your managers to the strategic planning process.
Make sure they all understand the definition, and the importance, of terms – like, “vision”, “mission” and “objective”, and make sure they all understand the critical role they play in both strategy development and strategy implementation.
Focus on Important Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
This is one of the techniques Strategic Planners use to help businesses assess their external environments and internal capacity. In order to plan for the future, ask yourself such questions like…
- 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 trip 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 Vision and Mission. A business’s vision and mission statement (usually no more than one or two sentences) describes the purpose of the business. It enables all members to share the same view of the company’s goals, philosophy and future direction.
- Build Consensus.A management team with a clear and consistent vision of where the company is headed is likely to be operating in tandem to reach their destination regardless of whatever situation is encountered. Getting buy-in from all the team players will go a long way toward ensuring the strategic plan’s success.
- Communicate your strategy. Once you’ve developed your strategic plan, let your employees know what it is. After all, it is they who will help with its implementation.
- Remember that strategic planning is more than an event; it’s a process. Once you’ve developed the plan, your work is just beginning. Implementation is where you’ll spend the bulk of your time and resources. Make sure you take that implementation seriously. Integrate your plan into the day-to-day operation of your business. Have your people develop specific actions/goals and timelines to implement your strategy. Monitor progress of those actions at your quarterly staff appraisal meetings. Remember, its one thing to develop a strategy, and quite another to implement it – map out an action plan!
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