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Top 10 Tips for Effective Strategic Planning

On February 22, 2012    /    News

Strategic Planning; you either love it, hate it, or don’t understand it and ignore it.

Throughout time, it’s been proven that the organizations that have some sort of formalized strategic plan stay in business longer, attain more sustained growth and generate higher net revenues than those that don’t. The best result for those that undertake strategic planning is the organization’s ability to adapt to change much easier.

Strategic planning aligns your total organization – people, processes, and resources – with a clear, compelling, and desired future state.

The best time to undertake a strategic plan?
When there is a change about to happen:

  1. Opening new markets
  2. Change of ownership or business model
  3. Adding new locations
  4. Merging with other companies
  5. Adding new processes to a company

Below are some time-tested tips to help you through the Strategic Planning Process.

  1. It is a PROCESS, not an EVENT.

    This is not something you do as a single event. It is a part of a continuous improvement process. It never ends. It is not something you do, check off the list, and then move on to something else.

  2. Hire a Strategic Planning Facilitator/Strategist

    There is a lot involved in the Strategic Planning Process, but the ROI is huge for companies who see it through to fruition. The best solution is to hire a Strategic Planning Facilitator or Strategists who’s focus is to move the company through all the stages in the Strategic Planning process, document, engage, educate and communicate the company’s progress within the Strategy.

  3. Keep it SIMPLE.

    Strategic planning, when done right, is not simple. It is actually very comprehensive and complex. However, in order to effectively develop it, communicate it, and weave it into the fabric of your organization, you need to adopt a simple framework that everyone can easily understand. We believe that the entire process can be broken down into five essential questions as follows:

    1. Who are we?
    2. Where are we now?
    3. Where do we want to go?
    4. How will we know when we have arrived?
    5. How do we plan to get there?
    Continuous Improvement Cycle

    If you think about it, these five questions are not only at the core of effective strategic planning, but are also at the core of effective project management. Once this framework has been adopted, it can actually be used throughout the entire organization for a variety of purposes i.e. district strategic plan, technology plans, facilities plans, school improvement plans, project plans, etc.

  4. Involve ALL stakeholders

    Effective strategic planning is not done in isolation. This one cannot be over emphasized. Stakeholders need to be involved early and often. Don’t wait until you have already developed a plan to engage them. Make them a part of the process before, during and after. After all, the stakeholders are the ones that you will have to depend on to implement the plan.

  5. Measurable Results & Timelines

    Your plan must include measurable results. We call them “Performance Measures”. If not, then people will never know when the goal has been achieved. If you don’t have a due date, then there is also a good chance the work will never get done. Setting due dates help prioritize the work and provides the framework for allocating resources to get things done.

  6. Accountability

    People are the ones who get things done. If your plan does not get down to the point of having specific people responsible for initiatives within your plan, then the work will never get done because nobody will have ownership in it.

  7. Costs

    All initiatives have a cost, whether hard or soft. If they are not defined, then it is likely that they will not be planned for in your budgeting process. Nothing can be more frustrating than going through the planning process only to find out that the things you said were important have not been accounted for in the budget. Budgeting is not separate from the strategic planning process, it is actually a part of it. Budgets are where you put your money where your mouth is. If your strategic plan says one thing but your budget says something entirely different, then you have a problem.

  8. Align it.

    Your strategic plan cannot be separate from everything else. The strategic plan comes first and then everything else you do must be aligned back to it. This should include things like your budget, operational plans, school improvement plans, project plans, meetings (both board and staff meetings), policies, evaluations, etc. If it’s not aligned then you should be asking yourself…why are we doing it?

  9. Communicate it

    You can never do too much of this. Communicating the plan has to be done in multiple ways to engage and inform all stakeholders. Everyone should know what the plan is and what their role is in executing it. Find out how your various stakeholders prefer to receive information and try to meet them where they are.

  10. Track it

    If you have no way to track it, then even the best of plans can fall to the wayside simply because it became too complicated or too time-consuming to keep up with it. Tools are now out there to automate and streamline this process…use them!

  11. Live it

    For it to be labeled as “effective” planning, it must produce “effective” results. It has to become a part of the culture and climate of your organization. It has to be infused in everything you do . It should start from the top. If the board and leadership team “live it”, then it is more likely that people at all levels of the organization will too.

Strategic planning when done right is not easy. It takes a lot of time and hard work. There are no shortcuts. However, once embedded into the culture and climate of an organization, it does get easier as it becomes “the way” you do things. And most importantly, it DOES produce transformational results.

Learn more about starting a Strategic Plan for your company.

Dawn Larsen is a Business Strategist with Navigator Marketing. She helps businesses with change management and facilitates the Strategic Planning Process with companies in Sudbury, Timmins, North Bay and Thunder Bay.

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About the Author - Dawn Larsen

dawnAs the Director of Business, Internet & Social Media marketing, Dawn leads all consulting, marketing strategy and creative projects for Navigator marketing & Business Solutions. Dawn is an award-winning entrepreneur and marketing strategist specializing in custom WordPress web design, corporate marketing strategy and graphic design for business.

A leader in internet and social media marketing, Dawn has helped thousands of business owner and managers leverage the power of the Internet to generate increased profile, leads and sales. Dawn regularly speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America, as well as being a regular on radio shows and business magazines.

Learn more and connect with Dawn:
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