6 benefits of strategic planning

path-trhough-years-smallI just came from my monthly SCORE meeting. In case you are unfamiliar with SCORE, it is the Service Corps Of Retired Executives, a volunteer division of the Small Business Administration. Some of us aren’t quite retired in the do little else but play golf sense, but it is made up of business men and women with many, many years of experience. In our chapter there are 27 members, each with at least 40 years of real life practice in the business world. That means over a thousand years of street smarts available to help…and we offer mentoring at no charge. (If you want or need free expert advice, check out your local SCORE office. You can find a list at Score.org)

I was conducting a workshop on Social Media Marketing (which explains why I am a little late posting this blog today – Sorry!). One of the key points most of our mentors focus on is the business plan and it has prompted me that some might be confused when I am writing about planning.

A strategic plan is NOT the same as a business plan. Here are the key differences:

Business Plan

  • Prepare for a specific product or service
  • Identify specific customers for the product or service
  • Used internally and externally

Strategic Plan

  • Engage entire management team/company
  • Clarify overall purpose/mission of the company
  • Determine priorities to achieve
  • Primarily used internally

Both business plans and strategic plans have their place, but this discussion is limited to strategic planning. Here is what strategic planning will do for you:

Determine areas on which you can focus your resources. A strategic plan forces you and your leadership team(s) to think on concrete, specific terms. Because you have developed and articulated vision, you have decided who you are and what you want to be. Therefore some decisions, those things you will not do and not become, have already been made. You can then focus. And the ability to focus is primary to the ability to excel.

Develop a consensus within your management team. I wrote about this already here. Consensus does not mean that everyone accepts and embraces the vision without question. Clarifications are often necessary and it will demand your powers of persuasion and influence to bring everyone on board. Consequently, it may be necessary to eventually encourage disputing partners to find a better place to apply their efforts. Consensus is absolutely imperative. Why? Because two visions is di-vision and no organization can progress when internal struggles for per-eminence of vision drains away energy, effort, and attention that should be applied to forward progress.

Gain a sense of security with employees. An oft quoted axiom is “Where there is no vision the people just wander around.” Strategic planning makes the vision, which can seem distant and fuzzy, concrete and focused. Vision always mean changes and new emphases. A concrete strategic plan has handles on it, handles that employees can grab on to.

Set reasonable and attainable objectives – This is where the rubber hits the road. Strategic planning sessions often fail because they neglect to specify who will do what by when. If those three components are not included, your plan is nothing more than a nice idea.

Establish metrics for the company – The issue, at this point in the development of your company, is not so much getting there, it’s going there. Major American highways have mile-markers which serve as locators along the way. Metrics for the company serve the same purpose. They measure progress (or the lack of it) along the way. It is absolutely imperative that a leader knows precisely what’s going on and it cannot be done if there are no measuring devices along the way.

Gain control and fix operational problems – Even the most highly-engineered motor vehicles require on-going periodic maintenance. People need more. Operational problems always arise. Cows need to be milked in the morning…and again at night…and again the next morning…and again, well you get the idea. Strategic planning results in strategic plans which benefit you by enabling you and your management team to know when something needs attention. Then you can fix it.

In the next article, I’ll address the 6 key components of strategic planning:

  1. Mission and Vision
  2. Strengths -Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats, also known as SWOT
  3. Objectives -Where does the company want to be in 3 years?
  4. Identify & prioritize initiatives or opportunities
  5. Establish metrics and implementation plan (Who Does What –When…)
  6. Monitor progress and hold individuals accountable for implementation

See you Thursday

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