Strategy Planning may seem pointless. Especially, in the face of constant technological change and the relentless disruptive forces in most industries.
There is no doubt, your business may be experiencing change and competition under a shrinking global community at an ever-increasing pace. As a result, “agility” and the hunt to seek out differences is becoming the new norm for businesses. This dynamic nature of doing business requires you to manage an effective and flexible strategic planning process to avoid costly disruptions.
Strategy planning, is the closest, you will get to gaze through a crystal ball. For a glimpse of the period ahead of you.
The benefits of strategy planning has been drummed into our heads for decades. Just as Management By Objectives (MBO) evolved into Strategy Planning – some have dubbed this evolution as Agile Planning.
Regardless of the name and the forces of change, the process is more important. The key is in the simplicity in which you can integrate the process within the day-to-day function of your business. The goal is to address both new and old forms of risks, challenges and obstacles as and when they arise.
The “VALUE” a strategy planning process brings to you is the ability to understand the business holistically. From a perspective of ALL your stakeholders. If applied correctly, it will inform all your tangible goals and objectives, such as growth, margins, revenue, etc. But, more importantly, it brings to focus your intangible goals and objectives such as ethics, integrity, loyalty, relations, etc.
It is the leverage on these intangible goals and objectives that your growth is anchored in today’s open & transparent ecosystem. On the flip side, if left unreferenced in this process, these can well prove to be liabilities. Causing irreversible damage to your reputation and brand equity.
A strategic plan provides you with a sense of direction and outlines measurable goals. Used as an integrated tool within your business, it keeps check on all key areas of your business. And, guides day-to-day decisions and actions.
In order to make the most out of strategic planning, you should give careful thought to objectives. Backed by realistic, researched, quantifiable targets for evaluating periodic progress.
The Strategic Planning Process
The process of strategic planning can be as important to your business as the results.
Regardless of the size of your business, identifying and engaging ALL stakeholders in the strategy planning process is essential. Especially as the focus shifts from JUST financial performance to more holistic performance criteria.
The luxury of reviewing and analysing past financial data to project and budget for future performance periods is redundant. Today’s critical need is the availability of LIVE data across all areas of your business. And nothing less.
The generation of this dynamic data across all key areas of your business must be central to the strategic plan. It is a vital element to achieve your underlying profitability goals and sustainably maintain a competitive position.
Your strategy plan seeks to identify the priorities for the period and enables resources to be optimised. Thus, allowing the business to adapt to changing circumstances. Navigating threats and opportunities as they arise. And, where all actions and tasks are performed proactively rather than reactively.
A carefully considered and effective strategy plan addresses the NEEDS and WANTS of ALL stakeholders. And, more critically, it must be aligned against your business’ needs and wants.
Approaching the strategy planning process in this manner, from the outside-in, ensures accountability and sound decision making. Allowing you to prioritise and allocate resources accordingly within the strategy plan. This allows for a needs, wants and values-driven vision & mission with measurable goals, objectives.
The Vision & Mission
The culmination of stakeholder identification, engagement and clearly defined needs and wants leads to a focused vision and mission for your business.
Defining your concise vision and mission is important as it aims to synthesise and distil the overarching strategies. It enables aligned and specific actions and decisions with a practical, clear and focused direction.
Your strategic vision and mission should be defined in a way that is broad enough to guide all stakeholders, and narrow enough for focused efforts.
Setting Objectives & Goals
Once your stakeholder driven vision and mission is articulated, the nuts and bolts of the strategic planning process can be expressed in measurable objectives and goals.
Measurable goals set specific and concrete objectives expressed in terms of quantities and timelines. These are important to your business because they enable stakeholders to evaluate progress and pace developments.
Actions & Tasks
Connecting these objectives and goals to a well-defined operations framework completes the circle back to the needs and wants of all your stakeholders. Actionable tasks and duties assigned to each stakeholder. Ensuring informed expectations and buy-in from all your stakeholders.
A simple, yet effective, operations framework is for you to define every action or task in terms of a function it plays within the plan. Progressing towards your objectives or goals.
As a general guide for resource monitoring during the course of running the daily business – all functions for every resourced action or task fall under:
- Fixing & Repair measures,
- Preventative & Improvement measures, or
- Growth & Scale measures.
More on this in a separate article …
Continuous Improvement & Flexibility
Strategic objectives and goals you set during the planning process are a product of information best available to you at the time. Together with the most realistic assessment of what the business can achieve.
Essential to your company’s success in achieving its goals and developments that arise as it executes the plan is “Flexibility” & “Agility”. This forms part of your organisations continuous improvement regime. This simply involves evaluating objectives, goals and progress both periodically and dynamically.
Your ability to redefine objectives and evaluate progress considering the effects on all stakeholders from external forces is crucial to longevity. Therefore, building this stage into the strategy planning process ensures the links between your stakeholder needs & wants, the vision & mission and the objectives & goals are ALWAYS aligned and in sync.
But Why …
Despite the overwhelming evidence of the merits of strategy and planning; the reality for small businesses couldn’t be more far removed from this process.
Less than 30% of businesses ever contemplate or complete a strategy plan. And, worse still, only a few of these ever actually implement a plan successfully.
Of these, most do it to satisfy regulatory requirements. In most cases, the content and context both are predicated on pleasing an external party. A party whose aim in the process is a mere tick in the box and a copy writing exercise.
Let’s get it straight, it is no longer a “nice” to have ( … it never was … ). It is critically imperative for you to invest in strategy planning. The process and its execution can be the difference between your success and failure.
The strategy planning process is never a project with a specific start and end. It must be a regimented process within your business – just like banking or opening the doors at the start of each business day.
The battle for you, however, is time and resources required to step away from the business enough to plan for success.
But yet, if you think about it, you never aimlessly sit in the car, switch it on and drive off without a destination in mind. You always find time to plan the journey, subconsciously maybe, but you do.
In fact, in most instances you will not only have the destination or objective in mind, but you almost always try to fit in other errands along the way. More remarkably, you adjust and adopt throughout the journey as the conditions change along the route.
The question therefore is, how do you effectively plan whilst there is constant conflicting “Cashflow Juggling” and “Firefighting Activities” to attend to?
The answer: Like riding a bike, it is frustrating and hard as you start the process. But, it becomes easier as you get in the flow and see the possibilities.
I am always keen to understand the challenges businesses are facing in adopting measures to increase value – so, please do connect.
Ketan Shah is a Strategic Business Design expert, advisor, management consultant and entrepreneur. Especially passionate about Business Strategy, Structures and Systems, he has designed and developed the SSS Business Design® framework for startup entrepreneurs and established business owners looking to make business decisions with clarity, confidence & control. Pursue opportunities, manage profitable growth and maintain high performance. Without the overwhelm, stress and frustration.
Moksh Pty Ltd is a Strategic Business Design, Advisory, Management Consulting, Capital Solutions, Investment & Funding Partner supporting Start Up, Commercialisation, Transformation, Turn Around, Growth and Initiatives.