Not making strategic planning a top priority is the biggest mistake many small businesses make. It is more than just spending time to brainstorm with your team and sitting down once a quarter to discuss how you have tackled your goals for the quarter. Strategic planning is a process that should be done regularly, fairly reliably, and consistently. Executives at most companies have been criticized for a lack of thorough and sufficient planning for today’s rapidly changing markets. The problem is not strategic planning but the lack of an effective strategic planning process.
Strategic preparedness requires a structured, organized thought process to identify potential threats, disruptions, and opportunities. While strategic planning is one of the least-loved organizational processes, it is also the most important and valuable in business. More than ever, companies need to devote time to their strategy as almost a tenth of companies disappear every year. Some people argue that strategic planning should be a thing of the past, and organizations that want to succeed in these turbulent times should instead invest in market intelligence and agility. However, these investments should always be backed with a great strategy to ensure it brings you success. Investing in projects that involve monitoring implementation, researching strategies, collaborating with various organizations, and constantly rethinking, stimulating and reinventing are some of the best practices in strategic planning that you should keep in mind. Let’s delve into more of them.
1. Prepare Different Strategies for Various Conditions
It is important to think about strategies for different conditions and situations. Each goal is unique requires specific strategies for particular times to implement effectively.
Long Term Strategic Planning
The goal of long-term strategic planning should be defining, validating and redefining the vision, mission and direction of the company. In the long term, it’s also a great perspective to think about how to project your skills and brand into new areas.
The focus is on developing a clear, viable business plan that outlines the multi-annual strategic initiatives needed to turn this vision into value.
Medium-Term Strategic Planning
Medium-term strategic planning should be done to list the steps to be taken to implement this vision, such as the preparation of a strategic plan for the company.
Short Term Strategic Planning
The purpose should be to challenge the current strategy and to explore ways to accelerate implementation. The best companies divide the process into three phases, each with its own challenges and emerging strategic issues.
Some sessions focus on deep insights into critical initiatives, while others focus on exploring emerging threats. It is also important to have forums where the strategy can be discussed in different timelines to allow for real-time adjustments over the years. We are increasingly seeing companies adopting an approach called “always on strategy,” which has the current strategy constantly reviewed. The frequency of this however, needs to reflect the specific nature of the industry. While this approach doesn’t fully prepare a company for what’s way ahead, this strategic planning method is a good starting point for the organization’s long-term success.
2. Engage In Diverse Groups
Bringing together a diverse group of people who can bring in new ideas and solutions will lead to better strategies, and ultimately better outcomes. By involving people from different backgrounds, generations and geographies, organizations can adopt alternative ideas and perspectives. Some companies even involve outsiders, including customers and suppliers, in the process to get a full view of the opportunities surrounding the business.
3. Allow Open Discussion
Bring together leaders and executives from all areas of the company. We tend to squeeze in too much work to put out fires, take much-needed holidays, and leave no time for comprehensive strategic thinking.
In order to create a strategic plan, your leaders need time to think big and maintain the full commitment of the team members in your organization.
You can’t do that alone, and if the team doesn’t buy into the planning process and the strategic plan that comes with it, you’re bound to fail.Allow open and free discussion with all the members within your organization.
4. Formulate a Clear and Flexible Plan
A good strategic plan is fluid and flexible, and everyone understands the plan and their role in it. For effective implementation, your plan must be clearly formulated, but it should not be set in stone. This allows you to adapt to changes in the market and not be afraid to change your plan if needed.
At the end of each strategic planning session, you should clearly explain what the next steps are and who will be responsible for what. When your employees and coworkers leave the room, everyone must understand what they are responsible for and when they must meet the deadline. The sanctity of information should be guaranteed, timetables should be set, and priorities should be emphasized.
5. Ask the Right Questions
Great strategists and great business leaders need to learn the art of questioning, and it is important to limit the number of questions to two or three per business unit or department. Give the management team a strategic workshop in which they formulate, prioritize and discuss the key questions that the company needs to answer in the next three to five years.
Questions in the strategic dialogue can be an annual iterative process, and it can take more than one cycle for questions to be fully answered. Some companies try to change the process every year, but amore sustainable solution is to follow the same process year after year and refresh with new questions.
Of course, the success of this approach depends heavily on the quality of the questions, and it must be broken down into compromises between process efficiency and new thinking. If the standard process focuses on new issues, the strategic dialogue will continue to be rich, as participants consider new analyses and discuss fundamentally different ideas.
Once the right questions are selected, leaders can let go because they know that the team is working on the “right” issues. The team will gather new insights, develop novel and relevant analyses and new recommendations.
6. Design a New Process
Design a new process that requires a new analysis to describe the market, competitors and external trends. This is very useful because it uncovers new ideas and stimulates a valuable dialogue. This process can lead to a renewed long-term vision, adapt medium-term strategies and define short-term measures. After a few years, the new process feels bureaucratic and uncreative like the old one, and most analyses can only be an adaptation of last year’s analysis. The same inputs will also lead to similar conclusions and a few adjustments in your processes may make it much more effective.
7. Leverage Big Data
A new approach is to use big data and advanced analysis for systematic market observations, including information hidden in unstructured data or in local languages. This allows companies to explore emerging signals such as market trends, supply chain trends or changes in market conditions.
Review your strategic plan and have a list of missed deadlines, including plans that have not been approved. Focus on accountability for results and make the strategy a habit, not just a retreat, and focus on the main goal.
9. Engage Stakeholders
As a rule, organizations that involve a broad group of external and internal stakeholders in their strategy development efforts achieve better results than organizations that place the strategy in the hands of a small, centralized team.
10. Seek Help from the Experts
Pin-pointing and solving problems is the key to success, but one of the most challenging tasks in strategic planning is choosing what to address first. Despite all the time, energy and resources invested in strategic planning, if there are no measurable and visible results – it means that the developed plan isn’t working. It does not matter how good your plan is if it is not properly executed. If your budget permits, hire a trained professional strategy consultant at Universal Creative Solutions who willfully devote to making the outcome of your plan a success.
A strategy consultant can offer a fresh set of eyes and give you the objectivity you need in order to clearly assess whether you are on the right track or not. They can focus on the important issues that need to be addressed to pave a better road towards business success.