How to Create a Successful Strategic Plan

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

As the old saying goes, “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” A strategic plan for your business or your team is critical to ensure your long-term success. A basic strategic plan can be created in a couple of concentrated afternoons or evenings, and can help keep you on the right course as you execute the daily tasks necessary to your business.

When creating a basic strategic plan you must consider, document, and share the following items with your team: (If you’re an individual entrepreneur, a strategic plan is still important)

Step One—Getting Ready: Quite simply, this step requires you (and your department or company) to commit to the idea of a strategic plan. There’s little point in creating a long-term vision unless you’re dedicated to following through. This might seem easy, but be honest with yourself about your ability to direct your business in alignment with the strategic plan. If there are internal obstacles to overcome or additional resources you need (like planning software), now is the time to take care of the groundwork.

Step Two—Articulating Mission and Vision: To have a successful strategic plan, you have to be able to articulate the reasons your business exists and what you intend to accomplish in a concise manner. There are plenty of books and online resources that can guide you in creating an effective Vision and Mission. However, there are three key components you need to lay out.

Purpose: Why does your company or department exist?
Business: Through what activities are you going to accomplish your purpose?
Values: What are the principles that are going to guide you as you execute your business activities?

Step Three—Assessing the Situation: Take inventory of where you stand today and the critical elements you need to address long-term to succeed. These are the baseline tactics you need to accomplish to be able to execute your Vision and Mission. The most common output of step three is a SWOT analysis with a database of activities to track.

Step Four—Documenting Strategies, Goals, and Objectives: This stage will often take the most effort and time. From the previous steps, you’ll have alignment on what you intend to accomplish, as well as an assessment on your ability to execute. Based on the information you’ve gathered, you may need to reshape your Vision and Mission. The key is that your Vision and Mission should align with the things you can reasonably accomplish in three to five years. At the end of this step, you should be able to put business metrics around your long-term plan.

Step Five—Completing the Written Plan: Once you’re done with the previous steps, you need to get it all down on paper. This is so that later, there’s no question how or why you developed the strategic plan. Strategic plans are living documents that might change periodically (but no more frequently than every other year) as business conditions change.

A strategic plan will help you stay focused, will help your team reach alignment more quickly, and will help resolve conflicts. As you progress, you might find other references with nuances that might be more appropriate to your specific needs. Still, the basics are here–and it’s more important that you get started with a strategic plan that you are prepared to execute than waiting for just the right format. 


photo credit: danielfoster437 via photopin cc

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