Ok, strategic planning may not be what keeps business managers or business owners up at night, but it can be one of the most exciting and key parts of every business. Think about it – THIS is the part of the business where you get to put your vision out there for changing the world (or at least changing your part of the world).
I know you might find it difficult sometimes to translate your vision into an effective strategic planning session, but here are some steps I’ve found to help you be more successful in your strategic planning efforts:
1. Do it often.
First of all, it is important to go through the process of strategic planning on a regular basis as opposed to when you get around to it. It’s SO easy to get caught up in what’s urgent and just putting something like this off.Secondly, evaluate your strategic plan, and how you are progressing through its tenets and goals. Every once in a while, just review your plan and ask yourself, “How am I doing?”
2. Use it as a guidebook for decisions of all sizes.
Ok, I’ll admit this one didn’t come from me, it came from the Stanford Social Innovation Review, but I loved the idea behind what it meant for strategic planning. Use your strategic plan as a living document and guidebook that helps you navigate the next 1-3 years of your business’s life. If you come across a decision to roll out a new product, for example, does this seem to fit within your strategic plan? (NOTE: Don’t use your strategic plan as the only decision guide in your tool box.)
Most business owners have some kind of vision of where they want their business to go in the future. This is crucial to the strategic planning process. But you also need to look at the numbers, talk to various people from inside and outside of the organization, and do some research on your industry and market prior to setting out your strategic plan.
4. Get feedback.
Yes! For small businesses who may not have an official board of directors or advisors, finding an outside source for feedback is BIG. Lock in at least a few individuals you trust to evaluate whether your strategic plan is going to set you up for success. Certainly all goals should be guided by the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based) goal format.
5. Strategic planning works best when applied at all levels.
Strategic planning should be implemented across all departments and all strategic employees of an organization. For example – if part of your overall strategic plan is for one of your employees/departments to grow by their sales by 10% in each of the next three years, then that employee/department should also develop a strategic plan on how they are going to achieve that goal.
I understand how business works and how strategic planning can help your business. In fact, I have participated in and judged business plan competitions. (Don’t judge me.) Stop by or reach out to me if you’d like to discuss strategic planning for your business.