3 Tips for Strategic Planning

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My 3 tips for strategic planning are focused primarily on preparation.  The operative word for strategic planning is planning.  Some people cringe at the idea of actually completing strategic planning. In actuality, the process can help executives understand so much about their business from the bottom up.

Imagining a better business than the one you have today can create great energy.  The challenge is the preparation aspects of strategic planning.  Once you get into the room with the right people, the rest of the process usually flows quite well.

Take a look at a few of my tips for a successful strategic planning retreat or meeting:

Tip #1:  Pre-work is critical to the success of any type of planning workshop.  This requires participants to complete a personal strategic plan prior to entering the room for a more corporate purpose.  I often ask participants to consider their ideal future prior to stepping foot in the room.  This forces participants to dream and imagine a better future.

Pre-work for the facilitator is where a great portion of your time is spent.  This includes developing the agenda, handouts, completing interviews and documenting survey information.  The logistics of a private, quiet and well lit space is critical to setting the right environment. I highly encourage leaders get off-site even if it is just for a half day or full day. You will be glad you did.

Tip #2: Leverage Interviews: Most great leaders in a small business environment will want to include their people in the process.  This can be completed with a formal or informal interview process.  I like to have non-participants answer questions about current clients, current internal challenges and career needs.

Capture the responses into themes that include the business strengths and opportunities.  I suggest using an executive summary, which includes the results in a table and in narrative form.  Obviously, do not use specific names when putting together the summary. You want employees to feel a sense of privacy when sharing their opinion and observations about their company.

Tip #3: Implementation:  Your plan is merely a piece of paper once you complete the process.  Great leaders must create a strong implementation strategy.  This includes everything from communication of the plan in draft format before finalizing.  This ensures that those key leaders that were not able to attend the retreat feel they have input and ownership in the final product.

Additionally, a company meeting to lay out critical aspects of the plan is essential.  This should focus on the preferred future of the business.  You can certainly talk about where the business is at today, yet focusing on that marvelous future helps employees imagine a better tomorrow.

A great next step for strategic planning may be to just evaluate your current situation using strengths and opportunities.  Keep it simple and then begin to think about the future you intend to create.