Mention ‘strategic planning’ and many people think ‘offsite retreat.’ While a day or two away from the office is a good time to focus on your strategic plan, the plan itself is a valuable guide year-round, encompassing every action, initiative and dollar spent.
Any organization wanting to be viable, fiscally healthy and results-oriented (that’s everyone, right?) needs a strategic plan to guide decision making and set priorities for three to five years.
5 signs that you need a strategic plan:
- Your organization has no long-term plan for success
- There is no formal mission, vision or goals
- When team members are asked about the organization, answers vary or are vague
- Leadership does not or cannot track spending to company objectives
- The organization has evolved and is no longer a one-person show
Creating a strategic plan gives everyone in your organization a working roadmap for the future. The pieces of the plan help guide daily actions—everything ranging from how to allocate company resources, to how to engage stakeholders. Even small companies need a strategic plan to formalize their values and vision, which guides goal setting while also allowing them to measure their impact beyond the bottom line.
Most strategic plans define the organization’s Mission, Vision, and Goals, and establish short-and long-term Objectives. Creating the plan might seem daunting, but referring to the plan keeps team members connected to guiding principles and actually makes daily operations easier.
How do we get started?
Having helped hundreds of organizations develop a strategic plan, we know the biggest obstacle is getting started. Here are some tips to make it easier:
- Don’t go it alone. Establish a core team of trusted personnel to help with the creation of a plan. Bringing in outside help can keep things moving and offer a different, often broader perspective on your mission. Amazon didn’t set out to just sell books; they wanted to be a successful online retailer – an important difference in their mission that drove their growth in distinctly different ways.
- Mission and vision are the biggies and they can be difficult. An easier start is to first define objectives and desired outcomes. From there you can build up to mission and vision.
- Communicate. Tell stakeholders you are creating a strategic plan. Share your mission statement with your team. Remember the “If a tree falls in the woods” theory. If no one knows your mission, vision, goals, or objectives then they don’t really exist.
- Execute your plan! Don’t file your strategic plan away for a year. Instead, create a concept of operations (CONOPS) that spells out how you will put strategies to work. Be specific about timelines, resources and who will do what.
- Plan to review and update your plan as things change or on a regular schedule. It’s vital that your plan remains a living document, capable of responding to new developments.
Work your plan
Your CONOPS spells out how to put the plan into action, but that step takes people and resources. Spell out who will do what and when. Often the team providing input for a strategic plan will take the lead on implementation. Tasking people and groups across the organization is a good way for everyone to hear about the plan and buy in to the shared mindset and strategies.
Decide early on how you will measure progress. For some organizations that means metrics based on data, while others are satisfied with an observed shift in perception or awareness.
The process of developing a strategic plan can be a powerful force for good in your organization. Working together, sharing values and soliciting feedback can boost energy, commitment and morale. If implemented correctly, your plan and the CONOPS can also yield tangible benefits: stakeholder satisfaction, risk mitigation, teamwork and optimal work scheduling—as well as a clear roadmap for your organization for years.