How to Get Started with Strategic Planning – Part 2

In my last blog post, I recommended using SWOT when you’re developing your Mission and Vision statements. In this post, I’ll unpack what that means.

Do a SWOT analysis.

Sometimes the truth hurts. But every effective Strategic Plan requires an honest, objective look at an organization’s DNA. To those not familiar with the most popular method, I explain that SWOT analysis is an acronym for assessing Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats. This time-tested grid helps evaluate a company’s assets, processes, and people to find the positives and negatives, internally and externally.

Most planners use SWOT quite early, during the discovery phase. That’s fine. But I prefer to use it later in the process, addressing each strategic initiative as it is proposed. The client can then consider each targeted action in light of the four criteria to build on a group’s strengths, repair any weaknesses, exploit every opportunity, and head off any threats.

It’s important to know what the strengths and weakness of a company are and to develop a SWOT business plan from what is learned. If you’d like to conduct a DIY version, there are SWOT analysis workshop guides offered free online. They’ll explain how to conduct and write a SWOT analysis.

Make a long-term plan.

I’m often asked, “How long a time period do Strategic Plans generally cover? Does a long-term strategic management plan last forever?

In my experience, the most effective and workable platform is based on a 5-year plan — a 60-month written strategy that defines a company’s objectives and describes in detail how they’re going to achieve them.

Here’s a synopsis of how to write a 5-year strategic plan:

  1. First, do a reality check of your business today.

If you have them, review your Mission and Vision statements. Study your current market position — sales data, resources, and finances. Do a SWOT analysis to pinpoint your company’s strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Project where you want your business to be in 5 years.

Ready to grow? Dream big and set your goals for expanding your output, revenues, markets, staffing, and distributors. Maybe you want to move from local to national to global. Create realistic financial projections and potential profits you wish to reach in 5, 10 and 20-year increments. 

  1. Develop a concrete plan to achieve your 5-year goals.

Working backward from your desired outcome, identify what is needed to achieve it and when. For instance, you may need to increase sales, hire more employees, open new facilities, or modernize operations. Cover all aspects – raising capital, improving marketing, expanding operations, etc.

  1. Establish how you’ll measure success.

The importance of a 5-year plan is in making and achieving goals. Make sure your goals are specific and measurable. Write down exactly which key performance indicators you’ll use to track results. Success markers could include gross revenues, number of locations, market share, etc. 

Let’s compare strategic planning vs. long-term planning. Strategic (or short-term) planning evaluates your progress “right now” and creates action steps to improve current and near-future performance. Daily adjustments may be required to ensure efficiency. In long-term planning, goals are more overarching and “cut in stone” once they’re agreed upon. Barring a seismic event or market change, they usually last for the entire 5-year plan.

Put your plan to work. 

Theoretical plans aren’t much good. You need to know the actions needed to implement operational plans. Most planning systems give clients an executive action plan that summarizes how to work strategically while keeping everyone on the same page (literally and figuratively). These are known in the industry as One-Page Strategy Plans (OPSP). For instance, if you chose the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS)®, you’d get what they call The Vision Traction Organizer (V/TO).

In the StratOp system I use, clients receive what’s called the Plan on a Page. This proprietary driver is a combination compass, roadmap and flight plan. Among other tools, it includes Core Values, Mission & Vision, Action Initiatives, and Strategic Dashboard. Because they explain strategy implementation, a good one-page synopsis shows teams how to plan work activities today and execute planned future action.

Evaluate your plan and refocus accordingly. 

A good Strategic Plan lays out where you want to go and how to get there. That strategy is broken down into actionable steps that move your business forward. Equally vital is your strategic plan evaluation process. The best possible options for evaluating a strategic plan all look at specific outcomes in the short, medium, and long term that may trigger corrective actions.

In a nutshell, techniques of strategic plan evaluation analyze your progress against strategic benchmarks. How? By regularly comparing actual results with the outcomes you set out to achieve. If you’re falling behind or surging ahead, you can make adjustments and refocus accordingly.

There are plenty of free tools and strategic planning rubrics online. One popular system called the VMOST Analysis evaluates five core areas: Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics. Whichever system you choose, one thing’s certain — in today’s rapidly morphing environment, success yesterday or today is no guarantee of success tomorrow!

Planning your future by design.  

Many successful leaders waste their best ideas. How? By keeping them locked away in their head. Lots of smart folks just need a little help turning their good intentions into strategic planning – so they can be effectively communicated and dynamically implemented.   

If that’s you, I’d be honored to apply my skills and experience as coach and facilitator to your organization. To get a free strategic assessment of your business, contact me. Let’s work on maximizing your results through useful effort — planning a future by design.