The question is really that simple. Do you strategic plan? Do you plan for the future of your business, how it will grow and equally if not more importantly, how will it prosper? A Strategic Plan is simply a roadmap for your business to follow over the next several years, in general around 2-3, what your goals are, and how the business will achieve those goals. The Strategic Plan is simply the way you will coordinate and execute the different parts of your business to achieve your goals.
If you don’t have a Strategic Plan your business is not only at risk of failure, but it is even at risk of not being close to as successful as it could be. To put it another way, not having a Strategic Plan is just like walking around in the wilderness without a map. You might find your way out, but the odds are great that you’ll simply wander around.
What Makes Up a Strategic Plan
What makes up a Strategic Plan? The plan is the outline, the map for where you are going as a business and should clearly describe what your organization is (who you are), what you do and why. In general, a strategic plan includes:
- A summary of the plan itself
- A description of your business
- Your mission, vision and values statements
- Some kind of strategic analysis such as Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (commonly called SWOT)
- Some explanation of your strategy and how you will accomplish it
- An ACTION PLAN with corresponding responsibilities and timeframes
- Some kind of budget
- Measurement, monitoring and evaluating methods.
It is important to note that a Strategic Plan, while similar in some respects, is NOT a Business Plan. Your Business Plan has significantly more detail that details what your business aspires to; a Strategic Plan is more about how you will achieve that.
Who Creates and Executes the Strategic Plan
Commonly a Strategic Plan is developed under the general guidance of the Company President and their direct reports. More often than not these planning sessions are facilitated or guided by an outside 3rd party. The planning team develops the plan and its content to include action plans and measurement/evaluation for the entire business. They, in turn, will ultimately develop supporting strategic plans for their functional or operational areas that help make the full strategic plan successful. If there are subordinates to those who participate in creating the strategic plan, they become responsible for establishing the tactical plans that will execute the strategies of the original strategic plan.
When Should You Prepare Your Strategic Plan
While the standard response of “it depends” is certainly true here, that isn’t the best of answers to the question about when should you plan. However, it still depends. If you are in an industry that changes rapidly such as technology, more frequent strategic planning is important. If you are preparing for growth or expansion into new markets when the overall business environment is changing such as laws, regulations, business practices and so forth then more frequent planning is necessary. Some companies conduct Strategic Planning every 3-4 years, some the year following every Presidential election, some when they remember they should do it. Whatever you decide is best for your business, and not the latter example, is when you should conduct your strategic planning.
What are the Benefits of Strategic Planning
There are many benefits to having a strategic plan and more importantly using it. Some of these are:
- Provides you with a way of defining the direction of your business, why you want to do as you have planned, and the costs associated with doing that…as well as the return.
- Gives you a current analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that your business faces. Gives you the means to utilize your strengths, develop your weaknesses into strengths and take advantage of the opportunities your business faces.
- Gives you a means of identifying the strategies you must take, how you will execute those strategies and how you will evaluate and measure their impact.
- Gives your workforce direction and a goal to achieve. The plan creates a higher level of workforce engagement and buy-in for your goals.
Regardless of what you do, a Strategic Plan is a crucial and important tool that your business must have and use. If you don’t have one, develop one. If you don’t know how to develop one, ask. Finally, once you have a plan remember the most crucial part – you must execute your plan. Without execution, all you have is words on a paper.