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Strategic Planning Made Simple - 10 Steps to Success

A strategic plan is an essential tool that gives direction about the future desired growth and success of your business and is meant to inspire your employees to achieve that success.

There are 10 simple steps to the process:

#1—Identify and Involve Stakeholders

Identify and engage those who will influence and those who will be impacted by the strategic planning outcomes. Also, identify and engage subject matter experts (SMEs) in your departments (finance, marketing, sales, R&D, operations, etc.) and in your industry. The purpose is to obtain input on your mission, vision, strategic objectives, key strategies and actions and success measures for the next 3 years. This can be done via survey, interviews and focus groups with staff.

#2—Perform Strategic Analyses, including a SWOT

Perform a competitive market analysis to identify what you do better than the competition – your competitive advantage. Also perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) analysis with the assistance of applicable stakeholders and SMEs. Internal SMEs can pull financial, sales, and other data to see historical trends and future projections. These analyses provide a strong context from which to begin the strategic visioning and goal setting.

#3—Craft a mission statement

If your business already exists, then you may already have this step completed. But some businesses have never clearly defined their purpose and focus. The mission statement is your reason for being in business. It describes your company’s purpose and what you seek to accomplish. It should be a very focused statement that is simple and easy for all to remember.

#4—Write your vision statement for the next 3 years

Sometimes your vision statement gets mixed up with your mission statement, but it’s a separate conclusion. Your vision for your company is where you want to be in the future. It’s what you expect your company to look like in 3 years – in terms of revenue, people, operations, products, services, etc. It’s about painting a captivating and inspiring picture of the future that all employees can easily remember and focus on so they are motivated to help make the picture become reality.

#5—Define your company’s core values

Expressed in a statement or short list, your values are your unique core beliefs. Values are what you’re passionate about and describe the culture you want to create for your staff and the experiences you want to create for your clients. They guide how you act as a business and every decision you make.

#6—Define your 3-year strategic objectives

Now that you know your vision for the next 3-years, what are the 3-5 strategic overarching objectives that you need to focus on as a business to achieve your 3-year vision? These objectives clearly articulate how to fulfill your company’s vision.

#7—Plan and prioritize your key strategies and actions

For each strategic objective, you must now define the key strategies and actions that you need to accomplish each. These are the specific strategic activities, initiatives and projects that will explain how your goals will be accomplished. They should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. You will then prioritize the strategies and actions to know which ones will take place in year 1, 2 or 3 of the strategic plan. These key strategies and actions are what inform an operational plan, where detailed action items are assigned to individuals or teams and progress is tracked on a regular basis.

#8—Define success measures

The best way to make sure your strategic plan turns into something actionable and not just shelfware, is to define success measures, often called key performance indicators. Each of your strategic objectives should have at least one performance measure that will help you determine how well you have progressed at meeting your objective and fulfilling your vision. For example, measures could be a certain percent increase in clients, revenue or employee retention over the next 3 years.

#9—Incorporate your strategic plan into everything going forward

If you want your strategic plan to stick, keep it simple, share it with all employees, and pin it up in every office. Use it as the guide for all lower level planning and reference it often in meetings. Everything you do should lead to accomplishing your defined vision, strategic objectives, and success measures.

#10—Make the vision, values and strategic objectives part of your leadership narrative

It's up to you as a leader to keep the strategic plan alive in your business or organization. When talking with managers, employees, clients, vendors, partners, and other stakeholders, incorporate the language of the vision, values and strategic objectives into your conversations. Regularly share success stories with your employees about how they or others in the company are helping fulfill the vision and strategic objectives and living the values of the business. Help everyone see how their role fits into the strategic plan, creating an employee inclusiveness and engagement that give staff they feeling they are all on the same ship on a well defined journey to the same successful destination!

These steps were developed from my work over the past 16 years with dozens of businesses and organizations. These 10 simple steps are the essentials in developing and living a strategic plan. Reach out to me with any questions or if you need consulting or facilitation help in working through these steps with your team.

Randall Thacker

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