Strategic Plan(ning) for Organizations: Reviewing, Refining, Repeating

Proper alignment between your values, your vision, and your company is important in steering your company. Making strategy a process rather than a statement is a key to success.

Focus on the process, not the plan

[wcm_restrict]Business leaders trying to plot the future of their companies without a plan often find their business not going exactly where they intended. But a strategic plan for the organization is key if, and only if, it is a living, breathing document to be used frequently. We really need to start calling this strategic planning to indicate the ongoing nature of the refinement and work in progress that this becomes.

A few years ago, I made a business plan. It was pretty, had colorful charts, nice graphs, lots of writing and predictions. Frankly, I never looked at it again. It’s gathering dust somewhere. I felt great when it was done. But it didn’t do anything to help my organization – or me – get further down the road. Since that time, I have learned the crucial difference between a static strategic plan and dynamic strategic planning: If it’s static, it’s a snapshot; if it’s dynamic, it’s an ongoing process.

Over the years, I have come to understand that adjustments must be made to various parts of a plan because the world around us changes constantly. Parts of the plan will stand the test of time, and parts need to be reevaluated and reengineered to respond to those changes.

The strategic plan is an overview of the business and a projection of its future. It’s the high-altitude view of the business, the big picture. It includes the past, the present, and the future of the company. Not surprisingly, the past and present are easier to define than the future.

Strategic plans reference time frames, money, resources, personnel, location, and the other core features of a business. This would be stated in terms of expected dollar increases, projections of personnel needed to handle the increase in volume, and benchmarks to see whether the plan is on the expected track.

Note that this type of plan does not go into the specifics of how this is to happen. The key people responsible for the work should develop the plan’s execution. In football, the head coach will pick the strategy for any one game, but it is typically the special coaching staff that is tasked with developing the play-by-play execution – this is your tactical plan.

Neither the strategic plan nor the tactical plan can be developed in a vacuum. They must go hand in hand and require constant communication and feedback to be effective. The speed of change around you determines how often you review the overall strategy you have laid out. During the review process, you may need to adjust these numbers along with the strategic plan. Also, this is a very timely way to measure the tactical plan and its effectiveness in heading toward the strategic goals.

For the planning process to be effective, communication is essential. This facet of the process can be one of the hardest to master, because the message needs to be repeated regularly for new people who come on board. They won’t know your vision for the future of your company. Even veterans of your organization need to be reminded of where you want to go.

Keep in mind that most people are hungry for direction. Ask the question: “What do we have to do today to position our company to look like that in the future?” It’s a working-it-backward process in the beginning and then a check-and-balance process along the way. The adjustments become easier to understand as the benchmarks are met or missed. You may find that not everyone is meant to follow your plan. Companies cannot afford to have people pulling in alternate directions from the overall vision of the leadership.

People need to know where they’re going. Simply remember the three Rs as the key to making a strategic planning process live in your company: reviewing, refining, and repeating the plan, all in a timely fashion. Sharing the message and vision is the leader’s job. Implementation of the tactical and practical “how to” components is what makes the strategic plan come to life and allows your goals to be more than mere dreams.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember]

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About the Author

Theo EtzelW. Theodore “Theo” Etzel III is the author of Invest Your Heartbeats Wisely: Practical, Philosophical, and Principled Leadership Concepts for Business and Life. He’s a native Floridian and president and CEO of Conditioned Air which he grew from a $2.7 million operation to a $46 million, 330-person organization.