Three Key Fundamentals to Strategic Planning

One of the wonderful things about going through the strategic planning process is gaining a detailed picture of your organization, leading to a true understanding of how the company works and its position in your industry. It takes time, energy and effort to pull together and polish a terrific strategic plan, and in order to do so, you must understand the three key elements:

1. Evaluate where you stand now: This is the information gathering stage of planning; it's time to gather all your facts and figures. A full understanding of your organization is key here, including internal operations, overall role in profitability, and comparison to competitors. Ideally, these reports begin from the bottom and work their way up the chain, so as to get a fully realistic picture of how all of your units and teams work within the company.

2. Pinpoint your goals: This becomes the answer to a frequent interview question: Where do you see yourself in five years? How about 10 years? Develop a broad overall plan for your organization, identifying long-range goals. Sharpen the focus of your company to align with those objectives. Will your stated focus and goals gain your company a competitive edge over the competition? All divisions and teams will have an ultimate goal that feeds into and supports the overall goals of the organizations.

3. Design the path: Here is where everyone rolls up their sleeves and gets their hands dirty. Identify changes for each division and team, along with broad overall structural changes needed to the organization. Long-term goals have been set, now it's time to break those goals down further, into short- and medium-range objectives. Finally, to put some teeth in the document, set deadlines for each step on the way to each goal.

Consider each element in context with the others, in order to better prepare your company's strategic plan. Keep in mind that lofty goals are fine, but are they realistic in the context of where your organization is now, overall economic conditions, forecasts, and internal resources. A strategic plan that sets unachievable goals because of lack of resources, be they human, financial, or other, becomes a dust magnet stuck on a shelf somewhere. A useable plan is one that sets goals that can reasonably be achieved.

Strategic Management