by Tom Stocker

Only 15% of all businesses use formal planning.  This is amazing considering no sports fan would ever tolerate their favorite team to NOT have a plan to win it all.  Likewise, very few of your family would ever consider getting into your car for a 2-week trip without knowing the destination.  So why do so many businesses go without plans or equally as bad, not sharing plans with their team?  Perhaps they are not sure how a strategic planning process should work.

To help demystify this important step to company success, here are the 4 major steps every business can use to get them onto the same road as world-class companies.

Step 1: Review Current Strategies

Simply, we start with a management review of how the current year is playing out versus where we thought it would.  We ask ourselves, ‘what strategies have worked, not worked, are in process or haven’t started?’

  • For strategies that worked, are we building on their success, are we on track and what is the next step in the process to continue momentum?
  • For those that haven’t worked, should they be revised?  Did they uncover a flaw in our thinking or execution?  Did our direction change?
  • For those that haven’t been started, is it because the timing hasn’t been right or a prior step is taking longer than expected?  Is the strategy not applicable any more or did someone just not execute as expected?

This step is important because year one of your 3-year or 5-year or X-year plan is the current year.  If you don’t have a focus on completing the base (year 1) steps of your strategy, you can’t complete or will have to delay all subsequent steps.  You will also use this review as the kickoff to creating your new 3-year plan.

Step 2: Review Your Vision

Your vision is the guiding light for your business.  As the owner, you have the right to change where you want your business to go.  Because your strategies are the plans to get you to your Omaha (your destination), it stands to reason a vision review is very important.

At Owner’s Edge we review and discuss our clients’ vision and strategies on a constant basis, so this discipline normally makes this step fairly straightforward.  Occasionally we do get surprised and find an owner did change their vision without much warning.

No matter when the vision change happens, a complete review of strategic direction and plan timing is in order.  Otherwise, the business will spend a lot of time and money executing strategies that do not get the business any closer to where the owner wants to take it.

Step 3: The Strategic Plan Meeting Event

Planning a strategic plan event takes a lot of thought and preparation.  Owner’s Edge facilitates many SP events and although we stick to our process, we do tailor each event to be unique to the company culture and owner’s style.  A facilitated event will go a lot smoother, deeper and with a lot more participation than one facilitated by an insider to the business.

The objective of the event is to draw out participation, ideas and consensus from all involved.  Unfortunately, when someone from within the business tries to be the facilitator (usually the boss or a senior member of management), the results generally don’t meet expectations.  This is normally caused because the facilitator:

  • is inexperienced in the process of drawing out participation
  • is a boss so those lower in the organization aren’t always comfortable being completely open
  • is too close to the discussion and will dominate much of the discussion
  • generally can’t control tangents or stick to the planned timelines

Once the event is completed, it is very important to collect and disseminate the notes taken into a usable format to create and prioritize the strategies, timelines and actions determined during the event.

Providing a format complete with responsibilities will go a long way to establishing accountability and rigor to the process.  As a next step, to this, we generally sit with each person who either has the responsibility for overseeing a major strategy category or a major action, to help them put together the details, timelines and responsibilities necessary to successfully execute a strategy.

The final action in this step is to reconvene the management team to review and approve the completed strategic plan.  This is important to ensure the team collectively buys in to the finished plan.

Step 4: Share the plan with the organization

Owner’s Edge recommends a meeting of all employees to present the plan is critical to the success of a company’s strategic plan.  Informing all of the employees about where the company is planning to go, how it plans to get there and providing the general view of how they can help is imperative.  Constant and consistent discussion afterward, including progress reports is equally important.

Unfortunately, we see too many companies who ignore this step.  We aren’t sure why so many companies either don’t feel it is important to let their employees know what they will need to do to help move the company toward its vision or why they don’t think employees are important to the process.  Either way, companies who practice these behaviors leave a very valuable and powerful resource unused and uninformed.

Conclusion: Follow the Process

Strategic planning is a powerful tool…if done right and used as a living document.  Those who take the time to build a strategic plan only to put it on the shelf until next year, or worse, take a ‘one and done’ approach are ignoring one of the most powerful tools to maintain company growth and profitability.  That is OK for those companies who are satisfied with where they are in most respects.

For those who do want to grow, aren’t satisfied with the status quo and may be frustrated with the pace they are on, this process is for you.  Not sure how to start?  Call us.  We will be happy to provide a no-obligation discussion to help you get unstuck.


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