Planning for success

In the last two months, we’ve tackled the first seven rules for strategic planning success, covering the steps in the development of the strategic plan.

As important as the first seven steps are, the last three could be even more important, since they focus on turning those strategies and plans into action.

When strategic planning processes fail, it is usually because the plan was developed but never implemented. In these cases, all that results from the time, effort and money spent on developing the plan is an expensive exercise and a dusty, outdated document.

The true benefits of strategic planning come from implementing the plan.

8. Make the plan a usable document. Like most documents, policies or procedures, if your strategic plan is filed or placed in a book on the shelf, it is soon forgotten and seldom referred to.

To maximize the benefits of the plan, management team members need to use it as a tool to manage. They won’t, unless the document is concise and easy to refer to.

The best way to make it into a usable document is to get it all onto a single page. Backup materials and analysis can be kept in the strategic planning books or files for periodic reference. The actual plan, though, including the mission statement, goals, performance objectives and strategies, need to be summarized on one sheet.

9. A goal without a plan is simply a wish … and a strategic plan without implementation is simply not worth it. No one undertakes a strategic planning process with the idea of developing a plan but not implementing it.

However, many planning processes seem to end that way. Unless the process includes a specific method or plan for implementing the results, there is only a slight chance the plan will be implemented to any great degree.

It is no different than many other good ideas in growing businesses: We get so busy doing what we need to do to run the business that these important-but-not-critical-to-today’s-shipment tasks get pushed aside.

Development of the strategic plan is only the first part of the process. The second phase is the creation of the tactical action plans required to implement the company’s strategies and to achieve its objectives.

Each functional area of the company must be responsible for developing its particular function’s action plan. Not only does this provide excellent buy-in of the function’s action plan, but also a basic understanding of the company’s overall plan and goals.

10. Make strategic planning a routine part of the company’s culture. To maximize the return on your investment, the strategic planning process should provide benefits for many years. Your company and the world around it are changing faster than ever before.

To keep your plan effective, constantly monitor and update it to meet changing competition, markets, technology or anything else that could make it ineffective.

Devise a plan follow-up and update schedule. Many companies hold a quarterly review and follow-up sessions with the planning team, concentrating on the functions’ tactical action plans. Consider an annual strategic plan review and update session to modify the actual plan, if necessary.

Review and conclusion

Now you have the 10 rules for strategic planning success. If you’re a business owner who’s already implemented strategic planning, perhaps by following some of these rules, you could improve your success.

If, however, you’re an owner who has resisted strategic planning, these may help you realize that, done correctly, strategic planning can provide benefits that far outweigh the risks, is worth the investment in time and energy, and can help ensure your company becomes and remains a winner.

Joel Strom ([email protected]) is president of Joel Strom Associates Inc., Growth Management. His firm works exclusively with closely held businesses and their ownership, helping them set and achieve their growth objectives while maximizing their profitability and value. Reach him at (216) 831-2663.