In today’s rapidly evolving business environment, organizations are often forced to remain competitive by adapting a culture of rapid change (I’ll offer up ideas on how to successfully accomplish that in a future publication). However, updating and communicating the organizations’ strategy to reflect these changes frequently doesn’t occur. A solid strategy is the cement and mortar in the foundation of any successful organization (that’s just one reason we offer our clients consulting servicesand training on this topic).
New product and service developments, increased or decreased growth, or other external environmental factors may have led the organization to stray from the strategy.
Many organizations take strategic planning for granted. So why conduct strategic planning?
- Plan for change
- Manage for results
- Provide customer support
- Increase adaptability
- Promote communication
- Guide management decisions
- Remain future-oriented
“He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” -Winston Churchill
Some organizations spend time and energy on strategic planning, and some spend no time at all on strategic planning. A strategy often turns into a shelf ware document – a pretty bound and glossy document that collects dust on a shelf. The leadership who has helped to create the strategy has had a change to their roles and responsibilities, had to change gears at the last minute, or may no longer be with the organization.
None of this is uncommon.
By now, you may be nodding in agreement and hopefully have several questions churning around in your head. Based on client experiences, here are a few of the top questions usually addressed through the strategic planning process.
1. What should you consider in developing a solid strategy?
- Several things are important to consider. Before developing a strategy, give careful thought to who you want to be as an organization, how you want to be known, what you want to deliver, and where you want to go? The strategy is a supporting document to help get there. The strategic planning process should help answer these questions and assist in defining target markets, processes, structures, roles and responsibilities, and key customers and stakeholders.
2. What are the key components of a solid strategy?
- A strategy should include several components. A solid strategy should include a focus and analysis on both internal (history, politics, culture, structure) and external factors (competitors, customers, environment, laws and policy). The strategy should also include the mission and vision of the organization as well as targets, goals and initiatives, andmeasures of success.
3. Who should be involved in strategic planning?
- Everyone! A mistake often made by organizations is to only involve leadership in the strategic planning process. Yes, leadership is responsible for executing the strategy, however, so are employees. It is important to consider multiple viewpoints when developing the components of the strategy; this often includes not only employees but customer and stakeholder inputs. Most often multiple planning sessions occur. Initial planning sessions are conducted with leadership. Leadership takes a first cut at developing the mission and vision and providing other strategic inputs. Once leadership takes a first cut, working sessions are then conducted with employees, customers, stakeholders, and others with input the organization wishes to include. In most cases, leadership validation sessions are conducted along the way so that leadership remains involved and committed to the process.
4. How should the strategy be introduced?
- Carefully! Once the strategy is ready to be introduced to the masses, it must include corresponding communications and change management efforts. Without a strategic communications plan, it is extremely difficult to determine the who, what, when, where and how the strategy should be introduced. A detailed communications plan should outline the content, vehicles, and frequency of communications with the various audiences and include methods to receive feedback. Accompanying the communications effort, a change management effort should also be included in the strategy implementation process. Introducing a new strategy often causes organizational changes, that if go unaddressed can have a negative impact. Careful communications and change planning are imperatives to minimizing resistance and increasing understanding and support of the new strategy.
5. How often should it be updated?
- Review of the targets, goals and initiatives, and measures should be ongoing. These items help to measure success of achievement of the strategy and should be updated frequently. If leadership changes occur, then it is important that incoming leaders have an opportunity to discuss the strategy with those familiar with it, and revisit the strategic planning process as needed. Overall, the strategy and its components should be revisited on at least a yearly basis.
So, in short, the strategic planning process should ask and answer the following questions (here is your cheat sheet!):
Where are we now?
- Internal/external environmental assessment
- Customer and stakeholder identification
Where do we want to be?
How do we measure our progress?
- Performance measures and KPIs
How do we get there?
- Supporting strategies and initiatives
- Action plans
- Tracking system
After all, in the words of Sun Tzu, “Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.”
About Scott Span, MSOD: is President of Tolero Solutions OD & Change Management firm. He helps clients be responsive, focused and effective to facilitate sustainable growth.