Strategic Planning gets you off the hook – big time. For planning for the future helps you move forward. It stops the crises in the future, however tricky it is at the moment.
Well, by moving away from tactical survival mode (aka ‘fire-fighting’), Strategic Planning sets the tone for developing your business…and moving on to greater success.
“Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”
“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”
George S. Patton
Strategic Planning is preparing for the future. It will never be perfect, fate gets in the way. But a plan that delivers 80% of what it was supposed to, is far better than no plan, which guarantees zero %.
Top Ten Things About Strategic Planning
Having Strategic Planning in your toolkit takes time, focus and vision. It is an acquired skill. It is one which, once you start, gets you in the right place for future success. It has elements in all areas, major ones, such as :- People, marketing, competition, opportunities, change, resources, location, and more…
The best at Strategic Planning…
- Make the Time
This is a ‘Quadrant 2’ thing. Remember that from “First Things First” by Stephen Covey? (There’s also a chapter in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” too). The very best make use of their discretionary time well. And part of it is speculating, best-guessing at the future.
- Are Regular
And once they are on a roll, they ring-fence a little time to do it with frequency. Usually monthly. It only takes half-an-hour.
- Organise Themselves
They create a framework of those issues (see above) that are the most likely to threaten their success and adjust the contents, month-by-month.
Once they have the viewpoint of Strategic Planning, they become aware. Their senses are heightened to take in solutions to their long-term strategy. They recognise potential and opportunity. They log it away.
- Have Contingencies
Within their Strategic Planning there are short-term solutions too. Not necessarily the best options, but do-able. They are not caught short.
- Involve Others
As part of their long-term plans, they seek thoughts and contributions from others. They seek opinions, yet, are able to be very objective through that subjectivity.
With their plans in mind, they are much better placed to try things out in advance. Whilst it will often be around people, it is other ideas as well. Perhaps operational, perhaps marketing – they have the luxury of time to test the water.
With people, they see ‘tests’ as developmental anyway – so even if the tenuous plan doesn’t come off, they have still ‘won’, with freshly energised, stretched and engaged people.
- Write it Down
To really cement the Strategic Planning process, it is committed to paper. Sometimes, the sensitivity of it may preclude publishing it openly (e.g. Succession Planning may be reserved for the writer or it might create expectations on a plan which can be speculative). Colleagues can be involved, but with that involvement, comes the trust and caution which may be required.
With each phase of the year, plans need to be used as a learning tool. Top class exponents look back at plans and see what happened. Thus making the next phase all the better.
Ten Ways to be Better at Strategic Planning
- Find Mental Space
Create time to think about the ‘what-ifs’. Do it with a self-agreed frequency. Red-circle the time once a month in your diary.
- Talk to People
About Strategic Planning as an activity, purpose and meaning. Make the time to get to know people and situations that might have impact.
- Get a Process
There are many options – a great one is a SWOT Analysis to be found on the www.businessballs.com site. Then use an action plan of activities to undertake, month by month.
- Get a Mindset
Think of the advantages and value of spending a little time each month on this. Recognise the situations that crop up where a Strategic Planning activity would have saved you.
- Respond to Opportunities
By being alert to what’s going on, and fitting that into the existing planning that you’ve done, situations you can use for the future benefit of your business will appear.
- Write it Down
A physical representation will ‘fix’ in your mind. Keep it safe, keep it visible and above all, keep it active – not somewhere under a pile of paperwork, or worse, deep in your computer filing system.
- Share It
There may be some bits that you want to keep to yourself, but keep them to a minimum. Share as much as you can with your people, especially your key people – they will get in tune and start creating strategic solutions themselves.
- Roll It
Keeping it in mind and also having a monthly review is OK. Within that, make sure that you update goals and visions too. Move your goalposts, especially if you are raising the bar on standards and business performance.
- Look Back
Once a year or so, take stock and look back at what was your plan in the past. Relate to your thoughts at the time. Check back on your assumptions and learn for the future.
- Be Flexible
Above all, as those little changes in direction for your business kick in, shift a little. Adapt yourself. Keep your standards and goal, but also flow a little as things come along.
5 Simple Actions You Can Take Today!
- Get clear on your Vision for your business. Measure how far you are away from that.
- Break it down into manageable chunks and decide the longer-term changes you need to make to get there. Be honest and be ruthless – this is a focused wish-list.
- Identify what you truly know about the future – what is going to happen, how sure are you (%) and when.
- Talk to your key people – get them involved in the big shifts your business has to make for your vision to be fulfilled. Get their input.
- Write it out, make it visible and create time to review, preferably monthly.