So you’ve set some goals, you’re feeling ambitious, and you’ve promised yourself that you’re going to follow through. You’re determined to make this year better than the last. And hopefully, it works out that way. But you’ve seen the reality, too. In spite of a sensible plan and good intentions, most people find themselves off course by March. Imagine if you could uncover the cause, stay the course, and get what you really want. The answer lies in having a solid starting point…a strategic plan that really works.
Every year, we meet thousand of decision makers around the country in our consulting and speaking work. Like you, they’re smart, ambitious, and they’re doing a decent job. But, they’re also often frustrated that they aren’t doing better. When we break down the element for them, we find that few if any of them have a good strategic plan they can work from. In fact, most of them don’t even know how to create one.
The following is a mini lesson in strategic planning. We don’t have a lot of space, but here are some important things to know when creating a basic plan.
1. Know the difference between a strategy and a tactic. Strategy is the plan that defines where you’re going. Tactics are the things you do and use to get to the destination. Sounds simple, right? You probably already know this, right? Take a closer look at any list of goals; you will find that many of those goals are tactics. This is the reason most New Year’s resolutions and company goals are off track by March.
2. Be specific. A few words can make all the difference in the direction you take your firm, and the tactics you use to implement a strategy.
Vague statement: We will improve customer service response time.
Specific statement: We will improve customer service response time will drop 29%.
Can you see how a few words change the way you might approach a challenge or opportunity?
3. Engage the aging process. Like great wine, the making of a strategic plan takes time. A strategic plan is NOT built during a weekend retreat! It evolves out of thoughts, research, information, and experiences. Spend some real time developing a strategy so that it’s the right one for your organization. Not having a strategy is hard on a firm. But having the wrong strategy, because you just threw one together, can be disastrous. On the flip side, don’t let the time frame hinder you from doing something, at least. It’s better to have some type of plan to follow, even if it isn’t exactly what you want it to be today.
4. Keep it simple. You can still be thorough without running yourself through the mill. Use the A-B-C approach:
A. Establish what you want to achieve: STRATEGY.
B. List available, realistic ways to make it happen: TACTICS
C. Select options that give the highest rewards for the lowest output: IMPLEMENTATION.
5. Follow the plan. Most plans are developed, and then put on a shelf. When (or if) they’re finally taken off the shelf for referral, you usually have to blow the dust off them. Not good. Senior management is guiltiest of not following the plan. A CEO should be able to clear everything off his desk and follow the plan daily if the plan is complete. He shouldn’t think it is meant for everyone but himself. Think of the strategic plan as the road map you and your organization use to follow your intended path. If you were to drive from California to New York, you would use a map of some sort. You’d refer to it to make sure you took all the turns and exits you need to follow the right roads, prevent getting lost, and get where you want to be. The same with the corporate map.
6.Be flexible. If, during the course of the year, you find that the plan needs some tweaking, you can certainly modify it. Be careful not to switch directions too often, as this will discredit you and your plan in the eyes of its followers. But, make sure that the plan is working in the best interests of the organization, even if that requires a sensible, justifiable change here and there.
Using these tips alone, you should be able to develop a stronger strategic plan…one that will endure through the unexpected trials that arise through the year, also. We hope this year is one full of growth and success for you. Good luck.
© David and Lorrie Goldsmith