Companies have many different processes for strategic planning and strategic execution. These processes are designed to support the company’s culture and size. Irrespective of a company’s size, the processes they follow they all need to have the following 8 key components.
- Robust Process: Hope is not a strategy! Strategy development takes time and energy and it is important that the time and energy expended by the company is not wasted with unnecessary activities and analysis. Development of an effective strategy is not difficult if it follows an appropriate process. The process needs to be robust and holistic.
- Inclusion: Strategic planning cannot be done in a vacuum. It needs to be done by teams of people who participate in the discussion and have input to the strategy. Inclusion of all stakeholders (BOD, employees, contractors, suppliers, customers) is part of the change management process which is a critical part of strategic execution
- Sequence: Strategic planning has a sequence of building blocks that provide direction to the planning teams along each step of the process. These building blocks and their sequence are as follows:
Mission/Vision/Values => Corporate Goals => Strategies => Tactics => Cascaded Objectives
It is important to recognize that strategic planning is an iterative process that occurs over a 6-12 week period, so as each iteration occurs, the sequence needs to be repeated.
- Mission/Vision/Values: These are the fundamental building blocks. Many organizations create them, don’t pay any attention to them and never change them. Markets change, competition changes, leadership changes and the Mission – Vision – Values of a company need to reflect current reality and future needs of the company and the markets it serves.
- Goal Setting: We often get push back on goal setting. The argument goes like this: How can I set goals if I don’t have a plan? The plan rolls up to the financial targets and those are the goals. My response to this is that there needs to be some clear goals and objectives set by the board and senior leadership that the various functional teams need to work toward. It is far easier for me to work with a team when I know that the board has a goal of 20% per year growth than it is to rely on marketing and sales to plan for goals that might have some risk associated with them: To extend themselves to what is possible. In my view, the numbers drive the plan and not the other way around.
- Planning and Research: Once the goals and objectives are defined, and assuming they aren’t impossible, cross functional teams now need to research markets, evaluate financial performance, update product roadmaps, evaluate supply chain efficiency, review organization structure, close strategic and operating gaps, leverage technology, etc. Once that is complete, as shown in the Business Hierarchy of Needs structure below the teams need to evaluate the company’s ability to implement their objectives and close strategic gaps and operating gaps.There is also a process and sequence to research and planning. Ultimately, when this step is done and reviewed through multiple iterations, there will be a well thought through strategic plan and clearly articulated objectives that have been cascaded down through the organization.
- Accountability: Clearly defined goals and a vetted strategic plan should be the basis for all decisions made at a company. Every stakeholder should be able to talk about their role in helping the company achieve their strategic objectives. If they can’t, then they have their focus somewhere else. Each stakeholder should be accountable to a set of objectives that support the company’s top-level strategic objectives. Without that accountability, there is a high probability that the company will fail at strategic execution.
- Execution: Executing a strategic plan is hard work for several reasons:
- It requires continual focus on strategic objectives that are likely to change during the plan’s life.
- In most companies, senior leadership is consumed with “working in the company” rather than “working on the company”.
- It may require making hard decisions
- Requires accountability
Strategic execution is a recurring process that requires that senior leadership put aside time every month to “work on the business” through management review. Quarterly meetings on strategy should only be focused on validating the current strategic priorities and making course corrections to action plans.
The strategic execution process needs to have tools that allow everyone to communicate with each other on the status of the implementation of the company’s strategy. Many companies meet once a quarter to discuss strategy which doesn’t provide enough “work on the company” time. While quarterly updates of the status of a strategy’s implementation are important, they should be focused on making decisions about the company’s strategy and agreeing on changes in course. The strategic execution process needs to be robust enough to keep everyone focused and to routinely engage them in “working on the company”
At Group50, we use a series of methodologies and tools in our strategic planning processes. We would enjoy speaking with you about these tools and our process as you think about the implications of including these components in the strategic planning and strategic execution processes. Call a Group50 strategy expert today at (909) 949-9083, request more information here, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author: Jim Gitney is the CEO and Founder of Group50® Consulting. Founded in 2004, Group50 is a consulting firm focused on working with middle market companies to significantly improve their strategic planning and strategic execution processes by leveraging people, process and technology as part of a company’s strategic plan. We have worked on strategic planning and execution with companies ranging from $50M to over $1B in annual sales helping them identify opportunities in their markets and develop products that differentiate them in the market place.
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