Most companies start life as a business plan. Eventually, that plan should evolve into a formal strategic plan document that lays out key initiatives for the business over the next three to five years.
Unfortunately, even when said document is created, that seed planted in the ground often ends up largely ignored, untended and malnourished. So how can you make sure to cultivate your strategic plan so it grows with the company? Here are some ideas.
Champion the process
Your top managers must take the lead in collecting relevant facts, setting priorities, weighing competing alternatives and then making choices. And they need to be highly engaged in a process of debate and discussion before decisions are made.
When the focus is on the process, not just the output, it’s easier to make it an ongoing effort. That’s because managers develop a deeper understanding of and buy into the analysis and options that were considered in developing the strategic plan. They’ll also have a greater sense of ownership, and thus be much more willing to keep it up to date.
Set the specifics
Don’t view strategic planning as simply setting long-range goals. A good plan also includes:
- Strategies (broad directions to achieve your goals),
- Programs (shorter term actions required to implement the strategies),
- Metrics (such as incremental market share improvement), and
- Milestones (such as “opening a new store on the decided-upon date”).
In addition, accountability is key. Assign responsible individuals to oversee each strategy or program. And regularly assess their progress against the metrics and milestones.
Be prepared to pivot
Some businesses annually update their strategic plans, whether necessary or not. Although this is better than doing nothing, it may not be sufficient. Always be prepared to “pivot” — or update your plan on the fly — should a market opportunity develop.