If you are in business, strategy plays an important part in creating success. But the challenge for many is understanding how to develop a strategic plan as they get overwhelmed with idea of looking into the future.
Strategic planning is the roadmap that you are going to take to generate sales, culture, growth, profit and deliver on your mission.
Whether you are new to business or a seasoned veteran, ignore the strategic planning process at your peril.
Being clear on the day to day as well as the 5 year plan enables you to make a series of decisions with your team to keep you focused on the most important actions required to create success.
With that said there is the process of creating the plan in the first place. There are some clear areas that should be covered during the process that will create a platform for growth.
Firstly you need to understand where you are currently at. An idea of what it possible versus needing to change the current position you are in.
You need to look at the opportunities and challenges what are currently present. They might be related to market changes, customer behaviour or something outside your control like changes in legislation and economic changes, all things that will influence the decisions you will make in your plan.
Once you have identified your area of focus the next task is to look at the market that is related to that strategic move. If it is internal it might be a consultation with key staff, of if external, looking at critical competitors in a segment of the market you want to grow or create. Understanding your audience needs and desires will pay dividends when it comes to the strategy execution.
Now you are building a picture of the potential strategy and market you need to look at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (or S.W.O.T) of the decision. This will help you decide on key elements like resource and timing. Timing is considered a critical element of any strategy. To early and the market isn’t ready and creates high cost to educate leaving the door wide open for others to get a competitive advantage, too late and the market is saturated or gone – think fidget spinners or Zumba.
With all that said you do need to know why you are going to pursue the opportunity you have identified or your mission. It is an increasing valuable tool within all businesses to be purposeful in what they do to support the market opportunity they have identified. This is the secret to keeping any strategy plan on course. (Especially when things get tough!)
Once you have these steps fleshed out now is the time to focus on action. Looking at tools and resources you will need. The expertise you need to help guide the process and fill those gaps that you may have identified.
Then be realistic about the timelines. Some strategic goals might be possible in a few days, some might take months or even years. It is important to break everything down into key actions that will incrementally step you towards the desired goal.
May people go straight for the goal and fail miserably. There isn’t a fast track in strategic execution other than to be clear and intentional on everything you do that will move you forward.
Another essential action when developing your strategic plan is to document what progress looks like. Who will be accountable and when key milestones need to be met.
All humans love to see progress. Imagine if you have a strategic objective that will take two years to deliver? That takes a lot of focus and a lot can happen in that time. Create short term milestones that everyone can enjoy to show momentum and create motivation to lean into the next set of tasks.
Beyond all of these important elements of your strategic plan there are a couple of other critical factors. Communication and delegation.
Document and detail the strategy, why it exists and what the outcome looks like. Then assume you can’t do it alone, if you are on your own get a mentor and external help, if you have an internal team share the load with them, make them part of the process.
Strategy can only work when there is focus, action and collaboration from all involved.