A Google search for “creating a strategic plan” generates more than 202,000,000 responses – in less than one second! Clearly, it is a topic of significance to many business leaders, and there is a lot of input available. With that many opinions, no one can absorb and navigate that much material. How is a small business really going to create an effective, meaningful plan of real value?
A lot of what is written on strategic planning is presented in “steps.” “All” you need to do is follow the steps. If you “just” write out your intentions and expectations, you will have a good plan. But is it really that easy? The steps are easily identified. Actually following through with them is where the challenge becomes real.
The basic steps identified in most strategic planning material typically include:
Articulating your Vision, Mission, and Core Values. Some of the best resources to understand the value of doing so are the Start with Why book, and Ted Talks by Simon Senek. It is one thing to read and listen to these resources, and it is another to apply them. Implementing these ideas takes some dedicated time, and focused thought.
Many business leaders find it helpful, if not necessary, to use an independent consultant to help with the process. It creates consistency, accountability, and focus to the process. Otherwise, the requirements of daily business operations can get the process off track. (NOTE: the value of the consultant is to extract from you and your team what your plan is to be – not create your plan. If your team does not create the plan, they will not own it. It will almost certainly not be implemented effectively).
Getting the information you need – from the right sources – to add perspective. You may want input from clients, employees, market research, internal reports, and even those who provide professional services to your company.
Determining trends and defining strategies for the next 3-5 years – with confidence – is next. There will be strategies in multiple parts of the business from R&D and financial matters, to communications and development. The various strategies will need to have clear assignments of accountability for action, and schedules for accomplishment. More than 5 real goals in each area may be unrealistic.
Implementing the strategies is the next step. The more clear the accountability of accomplishment and timeline expectations are, the more effectively the plan will be executed. The results can be transformative if overall goals and departmental goals are aligned, and resources (yes, funds – but also personnel, equipment, training, etc.) are provided to support their accomplishment on the agreed schedule.
Evaluating and refining the plan – regularly – is the final step. There should be quarterly reviews, if not more, to determine whether the right amount of progress is being made, along with understanding why or why not. Some impacting factors will be controllable while others are not. Decisions will be needed on what adjustments to make so that the plan remains relevant.
The planning process is always an expression of great intentions. When it comes time to implement, a “New Year’s Resolution” experience often happens. External support from a consultant or consulting firm can be just as valuable at this stage as it is in the formation of the plan. External guidance and accountability can make the difference between falling back into old patterns, and really stepping into the new future your plan calls for you to experience.
Listing the steps is the beginning. Addressing each one is a requirement. Acting on each one, and creating the desired result is a commitment. Price CPAs provides business consulting and strategic planning services. We can help you work through the planning process, with implementation of the plan. Please contact us (at 615-385-0686 or firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to discuss using our expertise to help your company, especially as the New Year begins.
Don Klein Consulting
Strategic Partner of Price CPAs