It is now that time of year when organizations start calling us to assist with developing their strategic plan. Subsequently, as a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant, I feel it is necessary to “eat my own dogfood” and create a strategic plan for my own life and business. However, like many of you, I don’t want it to become a binder full of information that is not monitored or adjusted.
We want to create an easy-to-use document that shows our progress and guides our decisions and activities throughout the coming towards success. So how do we go about doing this?
We (Kristin, Sue, and I) usually start in late December, by setting aside dedicated time to create our plan. Next, we individually review the prior year’s data about our business areas. We do this using four different techniques:
- We reflect on the prior year’s successes, activities, challenges, and lessons learned.
- We collect information about the business environment that provides insight. These include:
- current and potential client needs
- current and potential client socio-demographics
- current and future political and economic climate
- current and future technology trends and implications
- competitive space we are operating in
- our own organizational culture
- financial analysis
- other world issues that could affect our future.
- We reach out to our trusted customers and ask for their opinions on how we can improve our services.
- Finally, we include various stakeholders – employees, contractors, partners, virtual assistants, webmasters, graphic designers etc. Sometimes we ask them to provide input to our discussions.
We start our planning sessions by spending a few hours talking about trends, the macro environment, our strengths and our weaknesses, opportunities (to leverage), and our threats (we need to mitigate) – S.W.O.T.
We use this information as a basis for discussion about the critical issues we are facing. Typically, there are three or four big issues to deal with (some within our control, some not).
We then review our mission or purpose and discuss our desired future – usually 2-5 years out. For Kristin and I, we discuss this on both business and personal levels (as entrepreneurs, these two worlds are intertwined, so it makes sense to discuss this holistically). We think about this from many points of view; not just financial, but other desired results, process, lifestyle, as well as our health and relationship.
From this “vision” of the future, we identify 3-5 strategic initiatives that will propel us toward a vision that is consistent with our stated values.
Each of those strategic initiatives have a few implementation approaches, the “how” we will accomplish the goal, and decide on the activities we will engage in to bring the initiative to fruition.
Finally, we make an educated guess at the resources, capabilities, and finances we are going to need to achieve that desired state. We then decide if we really want to pursue each particular strategic initiative. Cumulatively, that’s a lot of conversations! So, we follow advice from Verne Harnish’s book, Mastering The Rockefeller Habits where he advocates creating a one-page plan. I have consistently carried mine for many years. Every month, we update the metrics, review each initiative, and decide:
What’s the one thing I am going to focus on that will move us closer to our vision?
My question for managers this week is:
Do you have a process that includes your key employees and customers to ensure a strategic plan that is realistic and achievable?
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