Do we have a plan?

When you started your business you had a vision of where your new venture was heading. You added staff and grew. Too often, however, we assume that everyone knows how their job fits within the company’s mission.

Someone once told me that over 50 percent of small to midsized companies don’t have a written strategic plan available for the entire company to read. How could a company have profitable growth without a strategic plan?

Forging a plan

Strategic planning is creating a vision and managing toward that expectation. Vision, mission and strategy focus the organization’s short-term decisions with its long-term goals.

The CEO’s job is not to run the business, but rather grow the business. Every CEO occasionally needs to step back from their day-to-day business and answer these four strategic planning questions:

  • Where are we today?
  • Where do we want to be in the future?
  • What should we be focused on today in order to make it more likely we will be where we want to be in the future?
  • How do we make it happen?

Executing the plan

Small business owners should handpick the people they trust the most, who think out of the box, to help put the big picture in perspective. I believe it is critical to follow these steps:

  • Select a facilitator for your planning session, someone who can remain impartial.
  • Create a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). The facilitator compiles all input prior to the meeting and shares the feedback with the group.
  • Take your team off-site and make them CEO for the day. They should look at the entire organization, not just their corner of the business.
  • Now the hardest part for the CEO — don’t speak until everyone has had his or her say.

SWOT discussions should uncover major issues facing the organization. Pick three or four key issues to concentrate on for the next year. Create specific action steps that are measureable for each key goal and assign a person responsible for that action step with a completion date. Share it in writing with the entire organization, review it regularly and let everyone know the progress.

Following up

Strategic planning will immediately facilitate teamwork and develop consensus, commitment and trust. It delivers higher results by establishing personal accountability, action steps, a team commitment and a stable investment platform. Strategic planning strengthens the leadership team by making them look at the big picture through the CEO’s eyes. It disrupts the status quo with an implementation process that keeps people on schedule, on track and accountable.

Strategic planning is creating a vision of the future and managing toward that expectation. It’s an effective process for aligning your short-term decisions with your long-term goals.