June 20, 2019

The Strategic Planning Process

Maurice Marwood

Maurice Marwood
Director and CEO/ReStimCo Limited

Share This Post

The information provided below describes a proven strategic and business planning process that I have used in several real-life situations to lead organizations through the strategic planning and implementation process. Successful companies in the 21st century will be those with a clear sense of purpose—with specific goals, objectives and action plans that are fully implemented and support a well-defined strategic direction. 

Strategic Planning

For an organization struggling with cash flow, sales, and profitability, it is critical to go through a comprehensive strategic planning process, even if you think you have one already in place. It is critical that a comprehensive Strategic Plan for the entire organization be developed with clear goals, objectives and work plans to energize and focus the people on a few important critical success factors. Progress and growth towards market leadership will require that a well-defined Strategic Business Plan be put in place.

Strategy should be a response to competition. It can help you achieve and maintain a set of distinct capabilities that will give you competitive advantages. Why do some businesses have strategies that are more successful than others? It is not easy, but it is simple. The best strategy is built on a foundation of comprehensive basic analysis of the current situation, sound business principles and the ability to quickly respond to the patterns of change taking place around us. We can help you develop the correct strategy for your business, and establish the proper goals, objectives and action plans to fit the strategy.

Linkage: The action plans of each individual in the organization can be communicated, understood and readily accepted if there are proper linkages between the other components of the strategic hierarchy: The Mission, the Critical Success Factors, Company Goals, and Departmental Objectives. It is simply a matter of establishing the correct strategic hierarchy, as a team, using an interactive bottom-up and top-down approach.

Implementation: Most strategies fail because of poor execution. Correctly facilitated, the strategic planning process can achieve elegant simplicity. This will lead to successful implementation through the individual contributions of each and every employee who knows what is expected and why. Compatibility between the organization’s culture, characteristics, management styles, and employee aspirations can be achieved. And in the end, the organization can accomplish what really matters–the successful execution of an effective strategy.

Facilitation: The facilitation process takes key members of the organization through an easily understood step-by-step exercise. At the end of this process, the participants will have developed a Vision/Mission, Critical Success Factors, Company Goals, Division Objectives, and Group Action Plans. Subsequent sessions can take the process further down into the organization, as required until all employees clearly understand the contributions expected of them to achieve excellence.

Excellence: Excellence by itself is not enough … it must be strategic excellence. That is, excellence in areas of strategic significance; areas that set the company apart from the competition, and areas that give you distinct advantages; i.e. superior competence in a set of distinct capabilities will allow you to achieve better and more consistent results.

The Planning Process

Strategic planning is often not well understood by staff unless they have actively participated in the process, so it is instructive to use a sports analogy — calling it a “Game Plan”— in order to more readily help all employees grasp the meaning. Quite simply, it is an identification of where the organization is going and how it is going to get there—a concept everyone can understand.

The management of the organization and senior staff must actively participate in the development and implementation of the plan. Of course, knowledgeable and experienced outsiders should also participate to coach, facilitate and guide the team through each step of the process, but at the end, it is important that the staff believe it is their plan because they developed it.

Once there is a commitment to change, the Strategic Planning Process described below can serve to develop clear objectives and shared expectations. When the planning process is completed properly, the results will become the Master Strategic Plan for the organization that represents the Game Plan for the business. See Appendix A for a Glossary of terms. The Plan should include:

  • Vision / Mission: A Vision and Mission statement describes in a few words the fundamental purpose of the business.
  • Common Values: A list of Common Values describes the kind of organization you want it to be. It might refer to a Code of Conduct.
  • Core Competencies: Focus on developing a unique level of expertise in areas that really matter to your customers. What do you have that customers uniquely value? What can you do uniquely well that competition cannot copy easily? What differentiates you from the competitors that allow you to avoid competing primarily on price? See Appendix B for more details.
  • Critical Success Factors: What are the broad general factors critical to the success of the business?
  • Goals and Objectives: A series of S.M.A.R.T. goals/objectives must support each of the Critical Success Factors and Core Competencies.
  • Individual Action Plans: Most importantly, each division and department manager should cascade the objectives further down into the organization until Action / Work Plans are in place for every individual in their workgroup. Everyone must know what’s expected of him or her and specifically how their work contributes to the success of the business. It is critical that management knows that all employees are comfortable in the same boat rowing in the same direction toward the same goal, especially when management is not around!
  • Communications Plan: Finally, top management must develop and implement a communications plan to ensure the Master Strategic Plan is well understood by all and that their questions and concerns are answered continuously during the transformation.

Keep it Simple

Avoid the tendency to make the process complicated. Follow the principle of SMART goals and keep it simple. Do not bureaucratize the process. When major changes are being implemented, it is important to limit the number of objectives to no more than three or four high priority issues that are focused on customer services.

The leadership, management, and key staff work together to identify goals, objectives and work plans that are focused on Critical Success Factors (CSF) that will establish superiority over competition and move the organization forward. As long as the goals are generally aimed at the correct Critical Success Factors (CSF) and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are used religiously to monitor and track progress, success will slowly and steadily follow.

Execution

Execution is the secret ingredient: remember: “What gets measured gets done!” And the corollary of that statement is that activities not measured routinely and quantitatively generally do not get done well. This is because efforts and results that are routinely tracked (keeping score) become important to the employees; if management does not quantitatively monitor and measure progress using KPIs, the team correctly concludes that it must not be important and therefore there is no need to care much about it.

Of course, the staff will go through the day-to-day motions of doing their work, but there will not be the ownership, the passion and the commitment to change, to improve and to win. Winning coaches always keep score and communicate continuously to their team to provide encouragement, motivation, and feedback on performance.

Appendix A ~ Terminology

Critical Success Factors (CSF) are broad general functions that must receive priority attention in order for the mission and purpose of the organization to be achieved. They are factors critical to the success of the organization.

Goals are statements of outcomes to be achieved over the longer term, normally during a 3-year period.

Objectives are statements of outcomes to be achieved in the short-term, usually during the first three, six or twelve months.

Action / Work Plans are detailed tasks that must be carried out to accomplish the Objectives; these tasks should be developed by the individuals responsible for the accomplishment of the individual Objectives;

S.M.A.R.T. Goals and Objectives: [Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Realistic –Timely]

Specific– A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions:

  • Who: Who is involved?
  • What: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Where: Identify a location
  • When: Establish a time frame.
  • Which: Identify requirements;
  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits;

Measurable – Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goal. To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as ……How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished?

Attainable – When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.

Realistic – To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress. A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a high goal exerts high motivational force. Your goal is probably realistic if you truly have a desire and a belief that it can be accomplished.

Timely – A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency. If you want to lose 10 lbs., when do you want to lose it by? “Someday” won’t work. But if you anchor it within a timeframe, “by May 1st”, then you’ve set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal.

Once the SMART Goals and Objectives are defined, timeframes would be identified for completion and specific individuals would be assigned responsibility for leadership and execution. The leader/coordinator would be responsible for defining more actionable work plans that identified the detailed activities necessary for the Goals and Objectives to be achieved.

It is also important that specific metrics—Key Performance Indicators (KPI)—be defined to track performance on each of the Goals and Objectives. These KPIs would be monitored monthly or quarterly and be used to keep management fully apprised of the progress being made as well as the obstacles that may be encountered from time to time.

Appendix B ~ Core Competency

What makes you stand out from the crowd?

The idea of “core competency” is an important business concept that relates to the current wave of outsourcing as businesses focus their efforts on things they do well and outsource as much as they can of everything else. The goal is to get ahead of your competition – and stay ahead.

It is important to develop a unique level of expertise in areas that really matter to your customers, so you’ll command the rewards that come with this expertise.

Core Competencies: The Value of Uniqueness

The starting point for understanding core competencies is to realize that businesses need to have something that customers uniquely value if they’re to make good profits. Businesses with nothing unique to distinguish them from their competition are doomed to compete primarily on price, and profit margins become thinner and thinner.

This is why there’s such an emphasis on building and selling Unique Selling Points (USP). If you’re able to offer something uniquely good, customers will want to choose your products and will be willing to pay more for them. The question is where this uniqueness comes from, and how it can be sustained.

Core Competencies are the most important sources of uniqueness—things that a company can do uniquely well, and that no-one else can copy quickly enough to affect competition. Star performers have a very clear idea of what they are good at. By focusing on core competencies, and continuing to reinforce them, products and services become more advanced than those of competition, and customers are prepared to pay more for them.

There are three basic tests to determine whether they are true core competencies:

  1. Relevance: Firstly, competence must give your customer something that strongly influences him or her to choose your product or service. If it does not, then it has no effect on your competitive position and is not a core competence.
  2. Difficulty of Imitation: Secondly, the core competence should be difficult to imitate. This allows you to provide products that are better than those of your competition. And because you’re continually working to improve these skills, means that you can sustain its competitive position.
  3. Breadth of Application: Thirdly, it should be something that opens up a good number of potential markets. If it only opens up a few small, niche markets, then success in these markets may not be enough to sustain significant growth.

For example, you might consider strong industry knowledge and expertise to be a core competence in serving your industry. However, if your competitors have equivalent expertise, then this is not a core competence. All it does is make it more difficult for new competitors to enter the market.

To identify your core competencies, brainstorm the factors that are important to your clients. Identify the factors that influence people’s purchase decisions when they’re buying products or services like yours. Make sure that you move beyond just product or service features and include all decision-making points. Then dig into these factors, and identify the competencies that lie behind them. And remember, a feature is not necessarily a benefit.

 

 

 

 

Share This Post