Strategic Planning

The idea of strategic planning conjures up pictures of rooms flip charts filled with outlines, motivating words, and organizational charts. To many it seems a daunting task with questionable outcomes, shallow thought, and lots of additional work.

Frequently that’s an accurate picture, but it doesn’t have to be like that. The planning process is much more palatable if it follows some basic rules. In business and personal planning, strategic thinking precedes strategic planning, and that must be followed by strategic doing. Unless the stated objectives degenerate into work, nothing of value can happen.

If done properly, the process of developing the plan is of more value and in the long run, more important than the plan. The engagement of key personnel to develop their own steps for completing objectives, and appropriate metrics for evaluating agreed upon goals or an end game contributes more to the outcome than does any written document.

In his book Seven Habits of Successful People, Stephen Covey emphasizes over and over that for any worthwhile endeavor you must always begin with the end in mind. Likewise, strategic planning begins with the definition of a measurable end game. Strategically it must have four components. (1) An active verb; what is to be accomplished must be clearly stated. Example verbs are; grow, change, achieve, become, and position. (2) A completion date; by when this action will be accomplished. Often time frames are unrealistic, so individuals creating the plan must argue, analyze, confront, and agree upon what will be accomplished by when. (3) A clear measurable result; this normally states the size, volume, change, or milestone that the plan is focused to accomplish. Examples include finances, sales, weight, education, personal achievement, and team or individual accomplishment.

The last component (4) who is accountable for what makes buy-in necessary. A plan developed and given to you by someone else has little or no buy-in; it must your plan. You must believe it, want it, and feel driven to make it happen or it probably won’t happen.

My experience in planning and doing has consistently shown that it’s more about the team than the plan. If the team chooses to be a team, any endeavor becomes much more possible than if a team is chosen or appointed.

Strategic planning IS difficult. It is time consuming, frustrating, and at times agonizing, but if properly done, it’s extremely effective and immensely rewarding.

Michael E. Workman has extensive work experience in distributor services, marketing, industrial sales, sales management, operations management, strategic planning, and profitability improvement. He is Professor Emeritus of the Industrial Distribution faculty at Texas A&M University, where he taught for nineteen years. He conducted the strategic plan for Barhorst Insurance Group – 2020 BIG Billion Strategic Plan.

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