Over the next few weeks we will be sharing five essential components of a simple, effective strategic planning process. These posts may be a bit longer, but we think the topic is worthy of a bit more substance. Based on our research and experience, we’ve found the following five techniques essential for effective strategic planning and tactical execution of those strategies. The first is to continuous planning.
Strategic planning, for some strange reason, seems to be an annual process for most organizations. If that’s the case in yours, then you’re waiting far too long to recognize and effectively respond to the implications of product innovation and demand, economic trends, the entry of competitors into your marketplace, leadership capacity and development,and so much more. If you want to minimize threats and maximize the opportunities in the quickly changing environment of your organization, continuous planning is essential. With continuous planning you’ll also stop asking your team members to force all their planning efforts into a brief period of time that distracts them from essential tactical responsibilities.
Ideally, you are building a continuous organizational planning process into your weekly, monthly, and quarterly tactical management activities. Something as simple as asking your sales team, “what are the slow-erosion threats to our sales volume and product or service margins we face?” Or you might ask your manufacturing group a similar question like, “What are the slow-erosion threats to the quality of the products we make?” Slow-erosion threats are those subtle threats that might not be easily identifiable like changes in your competitors pricing or the aging of soon-to-retire essential personnel—and they can be the death knell of your organization is not addressed.
You will also want to continuously identify the catastrophic threats that might result in untold damage to your organization’s productivity, reputation, or even its existence. The death or disability of a CFO, subject matter expert, or critical business development officer might be the source of such threats. Or it could be a data breach, litigation, regulatory change, or the development of new killer app by a competitor.
Just as you identify those threats all year round, so too you must identify immediate opportunities. A competitor’s failure, departure from your market, downturn in materials cost, might mean you have the chance to seize new market share, lower operating costs, or raise product margins can all present remarkable opportunities for an organization, but if your organization is only focused on an annual process, seizing such opportunities before your competitors do will be difficult.
Strategic opportunities arising from demographic trends, changes in technology like artificial intelligence, robotics, public policy and regulation all warrant continuous review, not annual consideration. Opportunities can arise both internally and externally for your organization, but your ear must always be on the ground if you are to hear their hoof beats in the distance. As you hear those hooves across the proverbial plain, leaders must then look up, around, and into the distanceto see them in time to adjust their mission, tactics, and align them to prepare their organizations long in advance of the opportunity arising.
Next week, we will focus on the critical questions you must make a part of an effective strategic planning process for your organization. If you’d like to know more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations build a simple, yet effective, strategic planning process and how we help them execute that plan, email firstname.lastname@example.org.