To many companies, Strategic Planning is either an annual ritual companies go through or something put off again and again for fear of getting stuck in a massive exercise in analysis paralysis. Neither the ritual nor the act of putting this off is the right thing for virtually any company.
To a large extent, the challenge with Strategic Planning is somewhat similar to engaging in a regular exercise program. If you’re already doing it, although you may have started it thoughtfully in all likelihood you have already fallen into a rut — with the original reasons for getting into it long forgotten and you’re running the process “on automatic”, without truly and deeply addressing your now current needs in this area. On the other hand, if you aren’t doing it already, you are likely daunted by the looming challenge of taking it on and questioning whether you really have the will to follow through on it.
So how do you avoid the rut of a ritualized process and when is “real” Strategic Planning something your organization should do, however small or successful you already are?
Good question, but at the root of both sides of this question is actually a far more fundamental and important one: when do you need to consider a different sort of planning than has guided you so far, something bigger than your normal tactical planning and something more challenging than just “turning the crank” on last year’s epic meeting process on this subject?
The answers to this are many, but let me set out just a few of the “whens” that may help you justify a strategic leap into a different planning process.
- When you have the cash to invest in new initiatives and really would like to do more than just “more of the same thing”.
- When your sales growth is slowing even while your competitors seem to keep growing and your customers are interested in more.
- When for some reason or another you’re considering dropping one of the products or services you already have, and you now have an opening to try something new.
- When the strategic path you are on looks like it may require significant shifts in the skill sets required of your organization.
- When it looks like something your company does could be readily outsourced to another and be able to increase quality without higher cost, all at the same time. This could be an opportunity to retrain resources or deploy existing ones into new territory.
- When an unexpected potential strategic partner reaches out to you to collaborate on a new opportunity.
- And finally (for this “quick list” at least), when you are considering changing what we refer to as the core “essence” of the business. This could include considering shifting what you consider to be the core purpose of the business, the means by which the business delivers its products or services, and/or the values by which it operates.
A good example of this last “when” might be where you have decided to shift to operate in a more Sustainable Manner, with far more attention to principles such as natural resource conservation, recyclability, or use of renewable materials, for example. Initiating significant changes in how you practice Corporate Social Responsibility, which might include reaching out in bigger ways to your community, for example, would also be a case where your values are changing. In both cases, those changing values might suggest jettisoning old products or services, creating entirely new ones, and/or changing fundamental ways in which your business operates.
In all these examples, the larger the opportunity the more important it is to consider some deeper approach to figuring out how your organization should grow. But how do you do that, especially for those with smaller organizations with minimal resources to make this happen?
Unfortunately for all the value that Strategic Planning (and its highly related sibling, Innovation Development) may offer, the traditional approaches to doing this have grown into such a massive commitment and complex process that for most people the only common word to describe the process is inertia — and on a large scale.
Here at Stranova, we have found the trick to avoiding this for your enterprise lies in two key words: Focus and Will.
By Focus we mean starting with a clear understanding of that essence of your organization — in all the ways we’ve talked about briefly in this essay as well as through some other lenses, as well as about the dynamics of the business ecosystem you operate with. Then you zoom in on what are the most promising opportunities your essence and ecosystem may be opening up for you. Your plans do need to be thorough and systemic, but focus will afford you the chance to avoid time-consuming distractions in the planning process.
After all, if one of the “whens” listed earlier in this post is why you’re considering Strategic Planning at all, you probably already have some degree of Focus as to what you want to investigate already.
And by Will we mean taking the time to harness the full power of each and every individual in your organization to move quickly on the strategic initiatives you agree to pursue. Collective Will can literally move mountains if you have a clear Focus on what you want to make happen, why it’s important, and the process to get you there.
Yes it is hard work. But once you’ve put your first “new” Strategic Plan in place, you can be assured the value it will create for your company is already taking shape.
Want to know more about how to make this happen in your enterprise, without breaking the bank or slowing down the good things you’re already doing? We can help. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org