A strategic plan is a dynamic map that helps guide businesses to where they want to go. It provides a roadmap for success, but the road ahead can be bumpy and requires careful attention to keep it on track.
During the strategic planning process, organizations identify and articulate what they are trying to achieve, assess their current position in relation to that goal and then set goals and priorities. The result is a long-term direction that can be measured against actual results to determine if progress is being made or if the organization needs to alter its course.
Strategic planning is a complex and time-consuming process, and the ability to do it well can make or break an organization. Regardless of the size or industry, every business must be prepared to plan strategically in order to thrive. A lack of focus on the process can lead to an inability to adapt quickly or effectively to changing conditions. On the other hand, an effective strategic plan can serve as a competitive advantage that differentiates your business in the eyes of customers and prospects.
An important aspect of strategic planning is identifying the different stakeholders and determining how your plans and strategies will impact them. This includes understanding the potential effects on customers, employees, shareholders and other interested parties. In the case of a business, this may also include evaluating competitors and identifying opportunities for growth in your markets.
The strategic planning process requires a level of objectivity that allows the participants to take a realistic view of the current state of the business and what might be required for it to achieve its desired future. This can be a difficult thing to do for small business owners who are heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of their company, but it is necessary in order to make the best decisions for the future of your organization.
A good way to approach this is by hiring a professional facilitator who can provide the necessary distance from the day-to-day business activities in order to help participants focus on the bigger picture. Bringing in an outside expert can be a great way to encourage open discussion and get the creative juices flowing.
Once the strategic plan is completed, it’s important to communicate it to all members of your organization in order to ensure that they have an opportunity to contribute and to give their input. It’s equally important to clearly assign goals and responsibilities along with budgets and deadlines to the people who are responsible for implementation, as well as to establish benchmarks against which to measure progress. Finally, it’s necessary to have a plan for ongoing monitoring and revision in order to ensure that the strategic direction is adjusting in response to changes in the environment and achieving the desired results. For these reasons, it’s often useful to develop a formal strategy implementation process that involves regular meetings and reviews.