Building a Successful Strategic Plan

You may have noticed that almost everywhere you looked at the start of January, there was something about the importance of setting goals. It's enough to turn you off of planning for the future, but at the very least, it is particularly important to set out direction for your business.

Strategic planning is described as "an organization's process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy."

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Simply put, strategic plans create a road map to determine where an organization is going, how it's going to get there and how it will recognize success.

This segues into an opportunity to create not only a direction for the organization, but also to craft a team vision. What kind of team do they want to be? Allow them to identify their team values and define what they want to achieve. Business is moving away from isolated mentalities and has a fresh perspective of a team.

The following are eight phases for the strategic planning process:

Preparation Identify reasons for planning and determine what outcome your organization wants from this process. Involve a cross-functional team to ensure the plan is realistic and collaborative.

Mission, vision and values Create them if you don't have them and ensure they are still relevant if they already exist because this is the foundation of your business.

Assess Your Situation Often referred to as a "SWOT" (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), this is a tool to examine internal (strengths and weaknesses) and external (opportunities and threats) elements of a business. By reviewing all of these factors as they relate to your business, you are able to create key objectives to leverage strengths, minimize weaknesses, capitalize on opportunities and evaluate threats.

Agree on goals and objectives A great definition is "the difference between where we are (current status) and where we want to be (vision and goals) is what we do (target objectives and action plans). In other words, goals are a statement of the visions, specifying accomplishments to be achieved if the vision is to become real. Objectives are statements of specific activities required to achieve the goals, starting from the current status.

Create action plans and timelines Action planning typically includes deciding who is going to do what, by when and in what order for the organization to reach its strategic goals.

Write the plan Complicated plans will collect dust on a shelf. A simple, user-friendly format will encourage those responsible for implementation to refer to it frequently.

Implement the plan This is often where things fall apart, so it's imperative to specify the plan's implementation roles and responsibilities with clear action plans for at least the first 90 days. Also, integrating the plan's goals and objectives into performance reviews creates a powerful incentive.

Evaluate and monitor the plan Strategies are not set in stone and can be modified based on progress made, obstacles encountered and the changing environment.

Paving a path is a key ingredient to business success. As Jack Kinder said, "High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation."

At Lighthouse Visionary Strategies, Cathy Goddard offers business and life coaching, workshops and the popular Open Forum speaker series events. She is founder of Lighthouse Mentor Network, providing mentor groups to local professionals. Cathy can be reached at info@lighthousevisionary.com

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