#10: The strategic planning process

Following on my from my last article on business growth, I would now like to talk about how you can achieve this through implementing a strategic plan for your business.

A Strategic Plan is fundamental to your ambitions being realised. In simple terms, you really need to be able to assess where you are with the business, identify where you would like to take it to achieve your goals, and then devise a plan that will enable you to get there.

If this is a topic which really interests you, I suggest you read The Strategic Planning Workbook by Neville Lake, which will really give you a comprehensive framework for devising a strategy and implementing it. We haven’t the time or space to do that, so will take a more “minimalist approach”.

I was fortunate enough to do some work in 2008 with Dr. John Marti of Southampton University, and I loved his no-nonsense approach to this topic. I will summarise some of his key thoughts and recommendations below.

Firstly, I remember he made some very helpful overarching remarks:

1. Strategy needs to be simple, crafted in everyday unambiguous language.

2. It needs to be communicated to and understood by everyone.

3. Keep it brief – ideally on one-page (I love one-page plans!).

4. It needs to be internally consistent, and use a common language.

5. It needs to be capable of being implemented.

He then moved on to present a very useful framework for the creation of an effective strategy:

1. Starting with context is a pre-requisite to crafting a plan. So questions for consideration might include:

  • What are the owner’s values, philosophies and beliefs?
  • What do the senior team want to achieve?
  • What is the purpose of the business?
  • What is the vision?
  • What business is the company in?
  • What business should it be in?

2. You would now have a platform which would permit a strategy to be developed. So the next set of questions might include:

  • What is the business objective? This is the “what”.
    John recommended restricting yourself to one objective which would maximise focus and concentrate effort, committing it to paper and limiting yourself to the fewest number of words possible, starting with “To”. For example, “To be the provider of choice in Sussex of social media training for business start-ups”.
  • What is the business strategy? This is the “how”.
    This would be an equally short statement starting with “By”. For example “ By creating a network of evangelical start-ups who direct other business to us”.
  • What is the competitive position?
  • What are the sustainable competitive advantages?
  • What are the organisation’s capabilities?

3.  You would then conclude with assessing how to create an implementation plan:

  • What are the tactical plans?
  • How will they be implemented?
  • What resources are needed?
  • What changes will be required?
  • What is the timescale?
  • Who will be responsible and accountable?

Obviously, as you work through this you may have to undertake some information gathering, in order to ensure that your analysis and resultant decisions are done on a fully informed basis.

Posted in: Growing Businesses

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