Developing a strategic plan might seem like an overwhelming process, but if you break it down, it’s easy to tackle. Strategic planning, an essential first step in the development of a results-based accountability system, and can be defined as the process of addressing the following:
- Determine where you are. This is harder than is looks. Some people see themselves how they WANT to see themselves, not how they actually appear to others. This is a challenge for organizations of all sizes because its human nature to have tunnel vision on projects we’re invested our blood, sweat and tears into.
For an accurate picture of where your business is, conduct external and internal audits to get a clear understanding of the marketplace, the competitive environment, and your organization’s competencies (your real—not perceived—competencies).
- Identify what’s important. Focus on where you want to take your organization over time. This sets the direction of the enterprise over the long term and clearly defines the mission (markets, customers, products, etc.) and vision (conceptualization of what your organization’s future should or could be).
From this analysis, you can determine the priority issues—those issues so significant to the overall well-being of the enterprise that they require the full and immediate attention of the entire management team. The strategic plan should focus on these issues.
- Define what you must achieve. Define the expected objectives that clearly state what your organization must achieve to address the priority issues.
- Determine who is accountable. This is how you’re going to get to where you want to go. The strategies, action plans, and budgets are all steps in the process that effectively communicates how you will allocate time, human capital, and money to address the priority issues and achieve the defined objectives.
- Review. Review. Review. It’s not over. It’s never over. To ensure the plan performs as designed, you must hold regularly scheduled formal reviews of your process and make changes as necessary as your key performance indicators dictate necessary. We suggest at least once a quarter.
Although this process appears systematic and rational, it is most often a dynamic process and evolves substantially over time – sometimes very formal, other times not so much. Further, it is subject to political pressure and will be modified accordingly when in the best interest of the enterprise. Some strategic planning efforts may not formally include all the steps described but the spirit of the approach should be adhered to and respected. A strategic planning is a wonderful thing. It can help you take your business to places you never thought possible and allow you to see it in a new light.