The value of strategic planning: How to get ahead and stay ahead
TLDR: Strategic planning will be the difference between long term success and failure.
Knowing where you want to go in your organization is the easy part - building strategy into your model takes effort. We've all heard the old adage "if you don't know where you’re going, any place will do". In any business, these can be expensive and sometimes detrimental lessons to have to learn the hard way. Strategic planning sounds like something only big corporate entities take part in - it's not. Strategic planning is a process that benefits governments, small businesses, non-profits, and co-operatives alike and can be tailored to your needs and organizational sophistication.
There are 5 core elements that all good strategic planning processes will identify.
1. Define your vision and mission
Whether you are starting your business or are a well-established organization - having explicit vision and mission statements are essential to success. Your vision and mission statements are clear expressions of what your business will look like in the future (vision) and how you plan to get there (mission).
A good vision statement will leave you feeling inspired and require your organization to reach beyond what it is - to what it could be.
Your mission statement will answer these 3 questions:
What is the business of your organization?
Who do you serve? and;
How does your organization meet those needs?
2. Define your values
Mature organizations already have established values - whether they are written down or even developed by design. Fundamentally, values are the shared beliefs in an organization, they convey culture and guide behavior. Organizations, regardless of size or intent use values as criteria for making organizational decisions. Having established values that can be clearly communicated ensure that each member of your teams knows the rules of the game. It alleviates potential for conflict and ensures continuity.
3. Start with where you are now
Organizations are often so busy keeping their heads down and doing the day-to-day operational tasks that they never take time out to think about where they are now or where they are going. This can lead to missed opportunities for growth as well as a general lack of direction. Planning is one way you can have a better understanding of where you're headed, what obstacles you may face, and how you can keep things on track.
There are many tools and even more acronyms available for analyzing your current position in the world. A SWOT analysis is one of the more common frameworks for identifying and analyzing an organizations Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Having an awareness and appreciation for what is discovered in a SWOT analysis ensures you are making sound business decisions that consider a range of factors that are often overlooked.
4. Develop SMART goals
A popular technique for effective goal setting is using a SMART formula. Set goals that are:
Identify how you will measure success along the way, so that you know when to make adjustments as necessary.
The goals you set will align with your mission and values and push you towards the vision you have for your organization.
5. Plan for Success
Many strategic plans are developed and then live out their lives on a shelf. If the work is worth doing - it is worth sharing! Keep your vision, mission, and values sta highly visible. This can be internally, externally - or both. Revisit the plan at quarterly meetings not only to refresh objectives but to celebrate success and re-evaluate the strategy - change what is necessary to complete the task.
Common reasons why strategic plans fail to achieve the stated objectives are because of a lack of commitment, unrealistic or unworkable goals, and a lack of leadership. Keeping the plan visible in one way to mitigate these challenges. Making strategy a habit is a key component to success.
Setting aside time to plan can seem like an impossible task given the time crunched rapidly changing environment we increasingly find ourselves in. But, having the ability to point to a spot on the proverbial map to state where we are going as a organization is so critical – especially in times of uncertainty. Strategic planning allows you to anticipate changes in your environment and react accordingly – allowing you to prepare your organization for any potential changes that might come up in the future and position yourself for success.