CEOs often find their strategic plan is not strategic and not well thought out. How can you prevent that from happening? How do you uncover the real issues facing your company?
For successful strategic planning, don’t start cold and be sure you have a robust process.
First of all, the team should be the top management team, those reporting to the CEO who represent all areas of company activity.
Many teams simply announce a two-day strategic planning retreat and then embark on developing a strategy. Starting cold does not let the team think about issues before they come to the meeting.
Solution: Send out a preliminary survey asking some thought-provoking questions.
- What are our top strengths?
- What are our top weaknesses?
- What issues face our company?
- What new opportunities should we be pursing?
- What challenges do we face over the next five years?
While some of these questions seem “easy”, an upfront survey allows the team to think about these answers. First they consider the answers when they reply to the survey and then again before the meeting. Many times, the answers to the survey will not be the same answers that they have in the meeting. This is because they have had time to think about the questions after they answered the survey. Having an upfront survey allows for better discussion during your meeting.
Be sure your process provides for making decisions based on information, not opinions.
In order to collect good information for decision making, we recommend a three-step process.
- Analysis of the current situation
- Allows the team to assess where we are.
- Allows the team to assess what topics are worthy of research prior to the next meeting where the strategies will be developed.
- Topics for research typically include:
- Market assessment
- Competitor assessment
- Other external forces: technology, suppliers, economy and regulations
- Possible new opportunities
- This research allows team members to develop information based on the data that has been collected rather than opinions and top-of-mind thinking.
- Developing the strategy
- Here is where you review the research that has been collected and make strategic decisions about where the team should be focusing its time and effort.
- This research review allows the team to have a shared base of knowledge. Furthermore, this knowledge often uncovers areas of opportunity and issues that need to be resolved. With research, people can determine what is important and what is just a hot topic at this point in time.
- Successful implementation is essential to successful strategic planning.
- The purpose of separating the implementation from strategy development is to change the focus from strategy to tactics. In the strategy meeting you decided what you want to do during the next 3-5 years. In addition, you decided what are the key projects that need to move forward (typically, 6-8).
- The time between the second and third meeting allows for detailed action plans to be written (and re-written). When complete, action plans should be a clear road map of how you are going to accomplish the objective. This plan includes actions steps, who is responsible for each step, and how much time and money each step will take.
Does your strategic planning have enough preparation so that your plan is well thought out?
In most cases, CEOs answer “no” to this question. If you are simply having the two-day retreat and are frustrated with the results, it is time to try a more structured approach. Get your team is properly prepared to develop a successful strategic plan.
Denise Harrison is a senior consultant for the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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