Think and Plan Strategically
By Susan Smith
It’s often said, “If you don’t know where you time, it will ensure objectivity and enhance
are going, any road will get you there.” I working relationships.
argue that it’s much better to have a good
map. In business, that map is the strategic Because the discussions held at strategic
plan. planning meetings are so different from
every day business discussions, routine
Strategic thinking determines where a firm is approaches must be abandoned. Strategic
going over the next few years, how it is planning is most effectively carried out in
going to get there and how it will determine if special meetings, preferably in a retreat
it is meeting its goals. The planning is setting, guided by a qualified facilitator.
strategic because it involves choosing how
best to respond to a changing environment. The strategic planning process involves
It is systematic because it calls for a process answering four basic questions:
that is focused and organized. It is inclusive o Where are we now?
because it builds commitment by involving o Where are we going?
partners, clients and employees in the o How do we get there?
process of identifying the priorities. The o How do we keep the process alive?
result is a plan that articulates the firm’s
principal goals and priorities, a conceptual The process begins by looking at your
framework that guides and supports the business as others see it-gathering data
management of the company. from diverse stakeholders. They will be
asked questions about all of your key
One of the key benefits of a clearly defined management areas: human resources,
strategy is keeping the company focused, financial management, marketing and
letting management concentrate on key operations. It is important to have the data
issues. Other benefits include: collected by an independent person to avoid
o Setting a formal direction for the incorporating your own biases. In addition,
business, more importantly, you will overcome the possibility that
determining where the firm is NOT individuals will only tell you what they think
going. you want to hear.
o Focusing on the competitive nature
of the firm. You are encouraged to This information is then analyzed for
look at your competition, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and
economy and the community to threats or risks. While strengths and
determine where the firm fits. weakness are internal, opportunities and
o Improving employee performance. threats are external and reflect what is
Without a clear understanding of happening in the environment in which you
objectives employees can become operate.
frustrated and dissatisfied. Planning
helps build teams. Once you have a clear assessment of where
o Providing a blueprint for action. you are, it’s time to determine where you
o Bringing everyone together to want to go. Imagine your business three to
pursue opportunities for better five years from now.
meeting the needs of clients. o What opportunities have you
Strategic planning must involve all key pursued?
stakeholders, that is, anyone who cares or o What do your clients, employees
should care about the company. Your and partners say about you?
internal stakeholders include the principals, o What financial results have you
full-time staff and part-time staff. Your achieved?
external stakeholders include clients, past o What are your key
and present and or potential strategic accomplishments?
alliances. All of these people will contribute
unique and valuable perspectives. This exercise will help you to prepare
A truly inclusive process will build internal mission and vision statements.
and external enthusiasm and foster stronger
commitment to the company. At the same
SBS Consulting Group Inc. www.sbsconsulting.ca Page 1
Think and Plan Strategically
By Susan Smith
The mission statement typically describes dust on someone’s desk. To guarantee your
an organization in these terms: plan’s success, you must assign a champion
o Purpose: why the company exists to monitor its implementation and report on
and what it seeks to accomplish its progress to management and your
o Business: the main method or employees.
activity through which the
organization works to fulfill this Even if, as a sole practitioner, you don’t
purpose have “a management team or employees”,
o Values: The principles or beliefs that you must still monitor your progress against
guide an organization as it pursues the vision and adjust when necessary. When
its purpose. you are responsible for every activity in your
firm, the focus provided by your strategic
While the mission statement provides a plan is even more critical.
blueprint for the company, the vision
statement answers the question “what will Remember what FOCUS stands for: Follow
success look like”. You will document what One Course Until Successful
the vision implies for your key management
areas. How many additional people will be Strategic planning is your most important
needed, if any, to achieve your vision? Will responsibility as a leader. It isn’t some
you need to change your marketing focus in trendy new business fad. After all, it was
terms of place, price, promotion or product? Confucius who said, “If a man takes no
Have you drafted out a new financial plan to thought about what is distant, he will find
validate your assumptions? sorrow near at hand.”
Once you’ve identified your critical success S B. Smith Consulting offers sound advice
factors, you must develop a process to and insightful coaching. Susan can be
manage and measure them, so that you stay contacted by phone, 416-467-0011or E-
focused and achieve your vision. Mail,firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some companies spend a great deal of time
and money just to create a plan that gathers
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