Developing a strategic plan might seem like an overwhelming process, but if you break it down, it’s easy to tackle. Here’s a five-step approach:
1. Determine where we are. This is harder than is looks. Some people see themselves how they WANT to see themselves, not how they actually appear to others. Many businesses get snared in this same trap.
For an accurate picture of where the business is, we must conduct external and internal audits to get a clear understanding of the marketplace (environmental scan), the competitive environment, and the organization’s competencies (the real—not perceived—competencies).
2. Identify what’s important. Focus on where we want to take the organization over time. This sets the direction of the enterprise over the long term and clearly defines the mission (markets, customers, products, etc.) and vision (conceptualization of what your organization’s future should or could be).
From this analysis, we can determine the priority issues—those issues so significant to the overall well-being of the enterprise that they require the full and immediate attention of the entire management team. The strategic plan should focus on these issues.
3. Define what we must achieve. Define the expected objectives that clearly state what the organization must achieve to address the priority issues.
4. Determine who is accountable. This is how we’re going to get to where we want to go. The strategies, action plans, and budgets are all steps in the process that effectively communicates how we will allocate time, human capital, and money to address the priority issues and achieve the defined objectives.
5. Review. Review. Review. It’s not over. It’s never over. To ensure the plan performs as designed, we must hold regularly scheduled formal reviews of the process and refine as necessary. I suggest at least once a quarter.