In an environment of disruptive change, competition, globalization, and against the galloping pace of emerging technology, there’s no such thing as ‘business as usual’. Most organisations’ purpose, success factors, form and capabilities are being challenged and threatened. Add to that the demanding expectations from investors, business partners, suppliers, customers and employees, and the pressures on the business to perform can be intense. This often leaves business owners feeling in a rut or finding they don’t enjoy business as they once did.
Strategic planning is the process which helps deal with these issues and challenges. The reasons for preparing a Strategic plan includes preparation for succession and handing over a business, looking to regain control when there is a feeling of a loss of direction, seeking to improve performance in face of declining sales or profits, or to achieve growth.
To remain successful it is vital that all business owners regularly set time aside in order to ask the following key strategic questions:
- Where are we now?
- Where are we going?
- How are we going to get there?
The critical objective question is Where are we going?. To answer this correctly each owner should review their individual personal and business objectives. These will need to be discussed collectively in order to agree on combined strategic goals.
There is often a huge gap between strategy formulation and its execution. Often businesses establish where they want to go, but have no route map of how to get there. They lack the direction they need to turn their plans into reality.
Therefore the strategic plan should address the following questions:What products and services should the business deliver? How should they be marketed and sold? Within what structures should the business operate?
The existing business structures should be re-examined to ensure they are geared towards the agreed strategic goals and are capable of delivering these in an efficient manner. In particular, attention should be given to Management Information Systems, Owners’ Roles and Location Issues.
Many businesses only plan at the structures level, and ignore the key objective phase. This is a fundamental error because it inevitably leads to planning for more of the same. The link between the objective phase, and the more detailed planning phase, allows business owners to plan for the kind of business they want, and re-establish the elusive feeling of being in control.
At the end of the planning process it is very important that an implementation and review procedure is agreed. An immediate work plan should be prepared with a strict timetable for action. Targeted review meetings will check that the plan is working, and offer opportunities to change the plan to increase its effectiveness.
Strategic planning is often mistaken for a writing a business plan. A business plan tends to be something prepared to help raise finance. Then it sits on the shelf gathering dust. A Strategic Plan is a ‘live’ document.