It's Strategic Planning Season! Are You Ready?

We are in the midst of corporate planning season.  An effective strategic plan is a critical component to running a successful organization, yet only few companies do it well. It can also be a drain on anyone lucky enough to be tapped to be part of the process.  It’s like being asked to go on vacation for a few weeks or months, but you never get to leave, and must keep up with your day job. 

According to a study by Bain, they asked nearly 300 global executives to rate their company’s planning process, and only one in three said that the strategy was effective. 

You may be already swimming in a sea of data, PowerPoints, and debates on whether a stacked bar chart or an exploding pie chart is the best way to tell the story.  I love it!  Being part of a team that can tell a story, based on research, and bring it to life with a plan that puts in motion all the employees and resources of a company, is one of the best experiences anyone can have within an organization.

To help keep your strategic planning process not only a great experience, but an effective one for your company, here are 5 guidelines to keep mind: 

1.      Align with the mission and vision of the company.  This not only helps keep your organization's brand authentic, it also serves as a guide when making decisions.

2.     Make strategic planning an important ongoing process, with continual process improvement, regularly managed throughout the year, and not an annual ritual that is part of a corporate to-do list.

3.     Have clear objectives.  Objectives that are quantifiable so everyone knows what they are aiming for and a way to be able to measure progress.

4.     Develop insights based on data.  Don’t just brush off last year’s plan and assume the facts are still correct.  Your company does not live in isolation, everything around the company; customers, competition, the regulatory environment, and many other factors are continually changing.

5.     Don’t isolate the process by managing and making decisions solely on a select group of c-suite executives that push down a plan through the organization.  A strong strategic plan incorporates the views of the customer as well as front line employees who will be executing the plan. 

Elevate your strategic planning from an annual exercise into an integrated part of your company’s business management process, taking into consideration the voice of your customers, the perspective of your employees, and the insights of solid market research.  This could be the difference between an acceptable strategic plan and a plan that is inspirational, guiding, and effectively defines how the entire organization will work together to achieve your objectives.