Next Steps: Will we be ready to take advantage of the improving economy as it arrives?
Senior Consultant, CSSP, Inc.
In my prior article ("Time to Start Planning for Growth - Step One: Analysis"), we discussed the lessons we should be learning from the major slowdown in business experienced during the recession, and how to analyze them so we would be positioned to plan to grow as business improves.
As indicated in the previous article, we tried to learn what our markets would be looking for as their business improves. We studied the competition to learn how they were reacting to the slowdown in business during the recession. We probed for weaknesses and looked to see where our competitors pulled back and possibly even lowered service levels. We tried to anticipate what the market would be asking for as business improved in order to be positioned to better serve the market in the future.
Now that it appears that the recession is ebbing, and growth is returning to the economy, what steps should our company be taking to establish strategies that will lead to improving our sales and our profits?
First, we need to revisit our strategic planning. In order to take the best advantage of our earlier work, we must review our market segments to obtain the best information on which we will base our strategies. Especially important is the updating of our assumptions. The efficacy of our work on assumptions will guide our future course and direction, so the importance of doing this well and thoroughly cannot be overemphasized. Good work here will mean we likely will have appropriate strategies for our core market segments.
Another key part of strategic planning is our focus on new opportunities. Part of our work to establish our future course and direction will be started with our brainstorming of perceived opportunities. At least some of these perceived opportunities should come from the analysis we did in our pre-planning efforts (discussed in the prior article). These efforts should have resulted in our looking for what our customers and prospective customers will be seeking as they recover, and should be targeted at responding to their anticipated needs and preferences.
Once we have established the products and services which our markets - both current customers and future prospects - will be seeking, we need to determine what our responses will be. We need to assess each opportunity to determine how each one will address the future needs and preferences of our prospects, and how each one will fit into our future. How does each relate to our capabilities and our strategic competency? Is each opportunity a good fit with our course and direction? Selecting those which fit our future direction and which utilize our strengths and competencies, and which meet the anticipated needs of our customers and prospects is a key to our future success.
Next step is the actual execution of our strategies and our action plans. Action plans are simply the step by step roadmap which will be used to accomplish our objectives. A detailed action plan with responsibilities assigned and dates agreed upon is the key tool in accomplishing the objective. Monthly update meetings are used to keep our action plans on time. In the monthly update sessions, the action plan leaders report on progress, confirm schedules for the upcoming month and make any updates or changes needed to make the action plan effective. Pulling all this together and getting our strategies and action plans executed effectively are keys to our profitability in the future.
If you've been dragging your feet about doing SP because of the cost or uncertainty, "bite the bullet, and get going". It's ultimately about execution, but intelligent formulation of strategic direction is necessary first. And the time is now!
Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant at the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached at .