Albuquerque, New Mexico (PressExposure) October 01, 2009 -- No one wants to spend money for yesterday's fad or last year's business craze. Many see strategic planning as one of those; a luxury at best, a non-value added expense at worst. Nothing could be further from the truth! When done correctly, a good strategic plan provides the basis for success and is well worth the effort. October is International Strategic Planning Month and is a good time to review mission and goals and to plan for next year.
Unfortunately, strategic planning often becomes an insatiable beast that chews up an organization's resources. As each expert invents some new technique, model, or formula, the process of creating a plan for success becomes convoluted and leaders often decide it isn't worth the effort. That's bad because a good basic strategic plan is critical to any organization's success. In difficult times, leaders often say they just don't have the time or resources to put toward the strategic planning process. But difficult times are when a good plan is the most critical because it provides a clear set of directions to keep the workers focused on success.
A good plan doesn't require a lot of complicated charts and graphs. It is more important to lay out these four basics.
1. Vision and mission. The senior leader is responsible to ensure everyone knows his or her vision and the organization's mission. Be brutally honest. If your mission is to make money producing widgets, say so.
2. Make sure everyone knows the company's values. This is vital. Most people have similar values but it's important to ensure everyone in the company knows what leadership expects.
3. Take a serious look at the things that are in your way. Put them in three categories. First, the things you control. Fix those things! Fast! Second, the issues that are causing problems but which you may only partially control. Do everything you can to fix these issues, then move them to the third category; things you can't control. You can't fix these things so make sure your leadership team is aware of them and do your best to shield your workers. Don't forget them though. In time, you may be able to move some of them to the first category and fix them.
4. Create goals and objectives that are realistic. Goals are distinct actions that focus your leadership team on improving your business. Reject the temptation to define goals that merely address what's already being done. Look to the future. What do you need to do to position your business for future success? Each goal should have objectives. These are the actual steps that will ensure the goal is accomplished. Goals and objectives must be realistic, reasonable, and measurable. Measurable doesn't mean you have to create a bunch of graphs and charts. Sometimes that's necessary, but not always. Yes or no is a measurement, and might be all that's required. Make a specific person accountable for each goal and objective with a specific deadline or there will never be completion.
There's one more critical step to ensure the success of your plan. Communication! Your subordinates absolutely must know what the strategic plan is and, most importantly, know their part in making the plan work. Most people want to feel they are an important part of something and that means they need to know why their contribution is vital. Most of your employees will work hard for you but they'll work harder and smarter if they understand how what they're doing fits into the bigger picture.
A good strategic plan is essential but it doesn't have to be complicated, difficult to create, or overly time consuming. It needs to clearly state a vision, mission, values, things that can get in the way, and solid goals and objectives. Just as important, it must be communicated to everyone.