Is Your Strategic Plan the Fast-Track to Success or a Meandering Road to Nowhere?

Many businesses have jumped on board the strategic planning train, which is great.

But there are plenty of business leaders who hop on that train without thinking it through. Some of them don’t have a final destination in mind— or even a route to follow. Many others will become confused and jump off early, landing in the middle of who-knows-where, left to wander among the tumbleweeds.

Should your organization embark on a strategic planning adventure? Yes! But only if you’re committed to riding it out through the end, which is what we’re talking about here.

When done right, strategic planning can help you:

  • focus your time, energy and resources
  • develop your team and processes
  • achieve your organizational goals

Let’s talk about how you can make these things happen.

Get everyone onboard

For our purposes here, we’re going to assume that you’ve already put a bunch of time, effort, and loving care into defining your company purpose and vision, as well as a strategy for how to achieve these things. If that’s not the case, you’re getting ahead of yourself here. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. And don’t even think about talking tactics.

Go back and start at the beginning.

Once you’ve gotten your key leaders together to figure out and document who you are as an organization, where it is you want to go, and how you’re going to get there, you can move on to the next phase: creating a detailed tactical plan— and actually following through with it.

Consult your inside experts

After developing a solid plan outlining your vision and strategies (think of these as your big-picture ideas), it’s time to begin the tactical phase of your planning.

Share the strategic plan with your team and give key players the opportunity (and authority) to help determine which tactics to employ for best results. In other words, let them build the roads that will lead to the vision. This should be done collaboratively, but with a level of autonomy and respect for the knowledge of each discipline. Allow them to be the experts – but ultimately answering back to the company vision.

Consulting with your internal pros will provide much needed insight as to what is possible and achievable— and sometimes what isn’t.

Set your goals

Think of your goals as the bright, yellow bricks that will pave your road to success. Have your company and team leaders work together to lay them out clearly, and in a way that makes them easy to follow.

Random targets and objectives that pull you in a million different directions aren’t going to move you forward. Off to the side, maybe. But not ahead. Your goals should help you transfer your carefully crafted strategy into purposeful action.

To be effective, your goals need to be:

Specific – Want to be a bigger player in the industry? That’s great! But it’s way too vague for strategic planning purposes. Try something like “Expand service into defined Target Market A” instead.

Measurable – Increasing brand awareness may be something you’re very interested in achieving, but again, how will you know when you’ve made it happen? Deciding you want to achieve 10% growth in website visits will make it much easier for you to tell whether or not you’re succeeding.

Realistic – Goals that aren’t actually attainable are sure to get your team fired up. But not in a good way. Increase production by 150%? Really, now. Do you have the staff, equipment and financial resources you need to make that happen? If so, go for it. If not, scale back.

Consistent– If you have one goal to increase sales by 20%, and another goal to decrease your sales support staff by half, the only thing you’re setting yourself up to achieve is supreme disappointment. With a side of decreased morale.

Flexible – Only time will tell if your goals are achievable. No doubt you’ll need to make some adjustments along the way. Being too rigid with your numbers and metrics is a recipe for frustration.

Now, make it happen!

Planning without action is just as bad as action without planning. Even worse, if you take into account all of the wasted time and resources. Creating the plan is a fantastic first step, but if you don’t take the next steps toward implementation, everyone is bound to lose faith. Including you.

Implementation timelines will vary greatly by organization. The process will be largely dependent on your leadership, your sense of urgency, your company culture, and how ambitious your plan is. The important thing is to keep your energy and momentum going so you don’t get stalled.

To keep your implementation phase on track:

  • Make sure leadership takes ownership, leads the charge and stays engaged.
  • Communicate the vision, plan, and progress clearly and often— to everyone on the team. Integrate these things into the daily workings (and the very core) of the organization.
  • Assess current staffing levels and resources to make sure plans are achievable.
  • Hold leadership and teams accountable to the vision and the plan.
  • Resist getting caught in the weeds. Keep an eye on the big picture.
  • Meet regularly with all levels to review progress-to-goal on the plans.
  • Be willing to admit when things aren’t working, and flexible enough to change course when needed.
  • Celebrate successes and reward your team for their hard work.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. Fear based management stifles creativity, innovation and success.

A bad strategic plan can be a demoralizing dust collector. A good strategic plan can focus your efforts, motivate your team, and take your business to new heights.

Which one will yours be?


This is the fourth and final post in a series of blogs about strategic business planning. For more information on this topic, read Is Strategic Planning Really Necessary?The Strategic Planning Process: Wise Investment or Waste of Time?, and Hate Strategic planning? Tips to Take Away the Pain. Subscribe to this blog to receive new business and HR-related posts each week.

Photo by wjgomes

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