With the new financial year approaching at a rapid rate, now is the time to start thinking about your strategic plan for 2014-2015. Whether you are starting from scratch, or evaluating and updating last year’s strategic plan, you need to act now. By starting the planning process early, you can finalise your strategic plan before the New Year commences, and really hit the ground running next year.
Why a strategic plan is important
All successful businesses have a clear plan for generating sustainable growth and profits. Leaders of successful businesses understand that it’s vital to get all their team members on the same page. These leaders understand the important role that a clear, concise strategic plan plays in achieving that alignment.
In a nutshell, a strategic plan is a formal road map that describes the direction of your business over the next 12 months (or longer), and defines how your business will achieve its goals and deliver on its purpose. Typically, a strategic plan is either company-wide or focused on a specific business unit. A strategic plan is vital because it can bring:
- Alignment from focusing the energy, resources, and time of everyone within the organisation on the same objective.
- Market strength from honing and accelerating your competitive advantage.
- Financial rigour as you prioritise your budget, resources and financial requirements.
Top Six Tips for 2014-2015 Strategic Planning
The strategic planning process should always start with evaluation, move onto communication and culminate in implementation. But even then, your strategic planning work will not be finished; it must be continually monitored, evaluated and updated.
I’ve put together my top five tips to ensure that your 2014-2015 strategic planning process is straightforward and easy to incorporate into the day-to-day operations of your business.
1. A well-organised planning meeting goes a long way
To ensure buy-in for your strategic plan, it is vital to involve all key leaders in your planning meeting. It will guarantee that a realistic plan, focused on a common goal is achieved. Ensure that this meeting is held in a comfortable, relaxed environment where the senior team can give this important task their full attention. Often, it’s a good idea to hold planning meetings away from your office or business premises (beware, though, making the venue more remarkable than the strategy you produce – that’s called a junket). Make sure you develop a clear agenda, and then stick to it. Beware the typical trap of making it a ‘budget achievement meeting’ or spending the bulk of the time raking over the coals of ‘last year’. Frame the agenda to be a future-focused session regarding your long-term goals, the customers’ needs, your market, and the requisite building of organisational capability. Appoint a meeting chair or facilitator to keep the meeting on-track and on-time. Appoint someone else to take meeting minutes. Get everyone’s thinking out on the table. Make sure your meeting runs like a well-oiled machine.
2. Review your company’s mission, values and goals
Was your mission devised 20-odd years ago, when your company was first established? Is it still relevant within today’s marketplace? Are your values actually ‘lived’ or are they aspirational? Do staff understand what the organisation stands for, or do the core values need to be re-discovered? Is the purpose of your organisation clear? To get all this grounded, I like an executive team to spend some time early in the session re-visiting their purpose, values and long-term vision. Remember that the key to an effective, growing business is alignment, and that starts with these key elements.
3. Undertake a SWOT analysis
Prior to your planning meeting, do your research. Focus on your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) to assess: the impact that the external environment could have on your business; and the internal capacity you have to cope with these impacts. Ask yourself (and also ask some of your key customers) these questions:
Strengths: What benefits does your company and its products / services deliver? What is that you do well? What is your competitive advantage? What is it about your relationship with your customers that you can leverage?
Weaknesses: Where can you improve? What would your competitors see as your weakness? What can your competitors deliver that you can’t? Could you implement more efficient processes?
Opportunities: Are there developments within the marketplace, or within customer behaviour on which you can capitalise? Is there new technology available that you could use? Are there new, cheaper, or better materials available?
Threats: Are there external events or competitors that could damage your brand, your company or your market share?
To engage your team further, why not get the direct reports of your leadership group to tackle (and present) Opportunities and Threats whilst the senior leaders consider Trends.
4. Understand your drivers
As you think about how you’ll deliver on your mission, keep in mind two important drivers: the brand promise that you’ve made to your clients (what you’ll do), and the key economic denominator of your organisation (how you make money). These key factors will guide the strategic choices you make in developing capabilities to support growth over the next 3-5 years.
5. Don’t be a scrooge
As with every business venture, you need to invest to be able to grow. You need to invest in your strategic planning process, allocating a realistic budget that will enable you to achieve your goals and objectives. As a business leader, it is crucial that you acknowledge that the strategies you choose to implement will inevitability have an effect on revenue expenses and profit. So, you need to consider these impacts, prioritise them, get Board sign-off if necessary, and then ensure that they are reflected in future budgets. Importantly, your staff will see the funding of initiatives as demonstration of your commitment, so make sure you fund the priorities that you want tackled and turn off the tap for things that need to stop.
6. Establish accountability and secure buy-in
Getting buy-in from all your key players is vital to the successful implementation of your strategic plan. The best way to secure buy-in: communicate. Communicate well. Make sure that all your key players understand your big-picture goals and objectives. Allow time in the agenda to agree go-forward priorities. Make key players accountable for the delivery of crucial aspects of your strategic plan, measure progress, review regularly, and then reward them for successful delivery. A really useful technique is to break priorities down into chunks that can be tackled in 13-week bursts to which you can attribute a theme. It’s a short timeframe which helps maintain energy and interest.
If all this sounds far too daunting, then why not use our One-Page Strategic Plan, a simple tool that has helped thousands of businesses focus their efforts and energies on securing long-term success.
Download our complimentary One-Page Strategic Plan here.