1. It’s about the ‘what’ not the ‘how’
A strategic plan is about setting your business goals over the medium term, and deciding the direction of the firm. A business plan is about the specific actions you need to take in the next twelve months, to make the strategic plan a reality. So having a good business plan is crucial, but it’s only half the answer.
2. Stand in the future and look back
Where do you want to be in three years? In five? Be absolutely clear about what the future looks like, and then work out what you need to do to get there – from your products and services, to your balance sheet, your working culture, and your organisation.
3.Stand in the present and look around
Take a long hard look at the business as it is right now. Do you have a genuine competitive advantage? Are your ambitions realistic? What needs to change? Techniques like SWOT analysis can help you get an objective view of where you are internally, and you can also use PESTLE to analyse the external factors at play in your market (Political/Economic/Social/Technological/Legal/Environmental). Porter’s Five Forces analysis is another useful way to assess issues such as the threat of new competitors entering your sector, or the likelihood of new game-changing products or services.
4. Invite input
The CEO needs to drive the strategic plan, but the more people who contribute, the more likely it is to be robust. People are also more committed to something they’ve helped to create. So involve skilled people from across the organisation (and trusted advisers outside), including those with a good grasp of how the market is changing. Ask your employees, canvas your customers.
5. Be prepared for change
A rigorous strategic planning process should challenge the way you’re operating today, and test its fitness for the next phase. If it doesn’t do that, it’s not doing its job. So be open to different alternatives, and new approaches, and accept that you may need to adapt your own personal role, as well as the way the business operates.
6. Set a timescale
A strategic plan is like an itinerary – it’s about when you plan to reach the milestones along the way, as well as the final destination.
7. Assign responsibilities
The CEO and board must take ultimate ownership of the plan, but specific elements need to be owned and driven by appropriate managers, supported by the budget and resources they need to succeed.
8. Translate the strategic plan into a business plan
Move from the strategic to the tactical by turning the first phase of the plan into a programme of action and implementation over the next twelve months.
9. Measure, monitor and adapt
As you implement the plan, assess how well it’s working, and whether it needs to be fine-tuned. Use objective KPIs to evaluate progress.
10. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Don’t just share the strategic plan, but the progress you’re making against it. This builds a shared sense of commitment, energy, and sense of direction.