5 key steps to include when developing your Company’s strategic plan
Imagine that you are about 16 years old, meeting with your guidance counselor and discussing the future with them. They may have given you an aptitude test, reviewed your grades and classes and perhaps pointed you to some colleges. Based on what you knew, you might have written down a plan – finish High School with a decent GPA, take your SAT, get into the college of your choice and launch into an extraordinary career that will allow you to achieve all of your long term goals.
But what happens if your perfect plan veers off course, say, you didn’t get the grades you hoped for, your SAT wasn’t stellar and as a result, you had to go to a junior college instead of getting into the college of your choice. What happens if you have a life event that disrupts your plans altogether?
Does that mean that you no longer pursue your goals?
As business leaders, you know that things don’t always go as planned, despite the most optimistic goals, whether it is the product that was developed that turned out to cost too much to develop and ended up being a flop, to your best employee walking out the door in order to become your biggest competitor.
The question is: how do you manage this?
It lies within the development of your strategy. A strategy may not always work out the way that you intend. There are too many variables that could throw the strategy off track. Therefore, it is in your best interest when planning to look at several things:
- Your strategy should be the path that you are taking to fulfill your company mission and pursue the company vision. Therefore, if your company has neither, you will want to start there.
- Do your research – separate the facts from the rosy-colored glasses ideas. Certainly, you can do an exhaustive study, but you must take into consideration the cost vs. the benefit. The greater the cost, the more research you will want to do. Alternatively, investing a ton of money and time investing in research for some projects just doesn’t make sense. Keep in mind, however, statistics aren’t the same for every business in every market, so don’t simply take a number and assume it will apply to your company.
- Consider multiple scenarios – Your strategy will be the path you pursue in order to achieve your goals. Your goal is to achieve some advantage in the marketplace, whether it is through products, service, positioning, innovation, business model, etc.. The future is vague at best; you don’t know what will happen tomorrow. If you drive your strategy toward one potential outcome, you could be going the wrong direction altogether.
- Decide which scenarios are feasible, meaning, which futures are those your company and your market could continue to survive in. Which are the best ones? Which ones will you avoid? Do your products have shelf-lives? Is your industry expanding or contracting? Is your market evolving? Can your business sustain an economic downturn?
- Build your strategy while evaluating risk and alternate paths in order to achieve your goals. You cannot predict everything. You cannot build alternate scenarios for every step. You cannot plan for every scenario…but you can move “fairly forward and roughly right!”
Building your strategy from this perspective is similar to creating your life plan with the “if/then” scenarios; if you cannot get into college ‘A’, you will try to get into college ‘B;’ the vision for building an extraordinary career will not change, but the path has enough flexibility in it to where if you need to make adjustments, you can do so without getting off track.
The most dangerous strategy in business is the one where there are no alternatives, where there is no peripheral vision to make sure it doesn’t get sideswiped and where there is no plan for regrouping and getting back on track. It would be like driving in a car with the windows blacked out and relying completely on your GPS to get you to your destination.
Rick Meekins is the Managing Consultant at Aepiphanni, the trusted advisor for business leaders who are seeking forward-thinking solutions to help them plan for and navigate through the challenges of business growth. Our entrepreneurial multidisciplinary team works with clients to develop differentiating solutions and provide direction focused on lasting, strategic results. We exist to help our clients CREATE | DESIGN | BUILD extraordinary businesses.
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