Strategic planning is a critical component of any company’s success.
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat” Sun Tsu.
Developing plans does not need to be onerous, but it does require effort and a commitment to taking the time required to complete the process. At my company we schedule a quarterly management meeting off site which we use to create plans, to review how plans are going and to address tactical problems. I believe this is a good practice and a big part of any success that we have enjoyed.
There are many benefits to taking the management team offsite for these kinds of sessions.
1. In a fairly short amount of time you can develop a roadmap that your team can execute against.
2. You will take advantage of the collective brainpower of your management team.
3. By getting away from the office you can bring a fresh look at the business.
4. A planning session should focus on the potential, but also recognize the challenges.
5. Some companies prefer to bring in external facilitators; we have had more success handling it ourselves. What you do need is someone capable of leading the sessions.
6. The sessions should be structured, following a process that “teases” out the ideas, encourages participation and is not constrained by “group think”.
7. The sessions need lots of space to write … we use the large post it note sheets all over the walls.
8. One traditional approach, and a good way to get into planning is a SWOT … Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
9. All participants should feel safe, everyone should be treated equally and nobody should dominate the talking.
10. The end result of this exercise should be ACTION Plans … with measurable outcomes, assigned to people AND with deadlines.
“Strategy is thinking about a choice, and choosing to stick with your thinking” Jeroen de Flanders
It is unlikely that your first strategic planning session will result in a major change in your direction … but it might!
It will result in positive action, supported by the whole management team that will advance the company’s goals.
It will result in a more engaged management team.
It will show who the strategic thinkers are.
It will allow the “quiet voices” (who often have the best ideas) a forum to get their ideas out.
If you don’t already conduct strategic planning t then I would strongly advise any business owner, executive, entrepreneur to engage in such an exercise and see what it can do for you.
And the final word from Peter Drucker, “Strategic management is not a box of tricks or a bundle of techniques. It is analytical thinking and commitment of resources to action. But quantification alone is not planning. Some of the most important issues in strategic management cannot be quantified at all.”