Here’s a quick overview of a simple, seven-step strategic planning process. This process can be completed in about an hour by a manager, owner or team. Or, it can be expanded into a 1-2 day strategy retreat.
Here’s an overview of the process…
Step One: Where Are You Now?
In this step we take a look at the two major drivers of strategic planning: stuff that is happening now or, stuff we think is about to happen to our business.
That can be good stuff, but it’s usually bad stuff.
So, in step one we get clear on the problems, challenges and future dangers facing your business. Then we narrow them down to those that will create the most impact.
Step Two: What’s The Vision?
While problems and challenges drive the need for strategic thinking, it is vision that drives the rest of the strategy process.
Nothing happens until you have a vision. The more clear and compelling your vision, the more powerful and imaginative your strategy will be.
The vision you craft in this step will act as the “North Star” to the rest of your strategic planning process.
Your vision should include tangible targets like revenue goals, market share goals, etc.; as well as intangibles like values, culture and purpose.
Step Three: What Are The Obstacles?
To have a vision is to have obstacles. They appear the minute your vision is formed.
Yet, many business leaders have trouble taking a realist’s perspective and looking big obstacles squarely in the eye.
Looking at, and admitting major obstacles to your vision does not make you a pessimist. The purpose of looking at obstacles is not to look for excuses and reasons not to pursue the vision. It’s to look at what our strategy must overcome, so that it can be as effective as possible.
Failure to look at obstacles and adapt your strategy to them creates nasty surprises.
Looking at big scary obstacles realistically gives the imagination the fuel it needs to craft innovative strategies for victory.
Step Four: What are our resources?
Only after you know what the dangers are, what your vision for the future is, and what’s standing in the way are we ready to look at our resources.
We are looking for two major elements: What resources we have to help us achieve our vision, and what resources we need.
Why not do this first – before vision? Won’t a vision be more realistic if we first look to resources?
The truth is a resource often isn’t a resource until a vision gives it meaning and use.
A rock at my campsite isn’t a resource until I discover I forgot a hammer to pound on the tent stakes – or a bear is threatening my life.
In the same way, you’ve got “rocks” lying around your business that you would never think to use until a compelling vision gives them meaning as a resource.
Step Five: What’s our strategy?
Strategy exists to serve your vision.
Vision and Resources answer the questions, “Where do we want to go?” and “Where are we now?” Strategy answers the question, “How do we get there?”
During this step you’ll take a look at your resources, mix in some imagination, and create a path around, under, or over your obstacles to take you to your vision in the fastest way possible.
Step Six: What are our tactics?
Now that we know our major strategic direction, it’s time to get specific with details, time tables and accountabilities.
Tactics answer the question, “Who’s going to do what by when?”
Ironically, if you, or a member of your team, excels at vision and imagination, this will be the toughest step.
On the other hand, if you are a realist and know all that “dreaming” won’t make anything happen, this will be your favorite step.
Either way, nothing will happen until you complete this step in the strategic thinking process.
It’s time to make something happen!
Step Seven: What will we monitor and measure?
In the late 1800’s famed military strategist, Field Marshall Helmuth Carl Bernard von Moltke noted, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”
What’s interesting is that this quote was from a military man who was known to take 1000’s of variables into account when crafting his battle plan.
His point being: Things change. You better adapt to them.
Vision is about the future, and strategy is how to get there. Yet, no person knows the future – nor will any amount of intense data gathering fully reveal the future.
Therefore we need to constantly monitor our strategy and tactics, making adjustments where necessary to keep us driving towards our vision.
Too often I see business leaders get so locked on a specific strategy or tactic that they fail to realize when it is time to try something different.
Monitoring and measuring the right things is the only way to keep you on track and on time.
It’s Your Future…
Neither you nor I can predict what will happen in the future. But we’ve been given the amazing ability to shape it in ways no one else can imagine.
As Dandridge Cole once said, “We cannot predict the future, but we can invent it.”
This simple, seven-step process will help you move from today’s challenges and frustrations to a richer future.