I am currently preparing to facilitate three strategic planning meetings, for an association, a technology company, and a Fortune 100 client. Here are a few things that I see as foundational for creating an effective strategic plan.
- The key to a successful strategic plan is to FOCUS. Every company, regardless of size, has limited resources, and strategy is all about effectively deploying an organization’s resources where they will have the most positive impact in the marketplace.
- To mirror my first point, one of the most important things a great strategic thinker does is figure out what to say “NO” to. What markets will we not compete in? What products or services should we not try to sell? What current projects should we abandon?
- If you have 10 strategic objectives, you do not have a strategy. All of the successful companies I’ve worked with were able to focus in on 3 to 5 major strategic initiatives. Anything more than that causes a lack of focus and ultimately a lack of success.
- When examining business issues, are you trying to solve a puzzle or a mystery? With enough data and information, you can find the right answer to a puzzle, but no matter how hard you try it is impossible to find the exact right solution for mystery. Because of this, as much as I hate to admit it, a large part of the strategy is simply an educated guess about what might happen in the future.
- Alignment is critical. If the senior team is not 100% committed to the strategic direction of the organization, the plan will fail.
- It’s an age-old business cliché, because it is correct: What gets measured gets done. A major reason that many strategies are not effectively executed is that there is no way to determine exactly what the expectations are. Ambiguity Breeds Mediocrity.
Those are just a few of the key ideas I try to help my clients keep in mind as we move through a strategic planning retreat. I will also add one more critical point; to make sure you follow through and implement your plan, you should spend just as much time on strategic execution planning as you do on planning the strategy. This is a very important idea that few companies truly embrace.
What are your thoughts?