Why Strategy and Planning Still Matter
Ok, so strategic planning may not sound like the most glamorous thing to do, especially now with the considerable pressure business owners are under to perform in a hyper-competitive, rapidly changing business environment being transformed by technology.
That the best performing companies are dedicating more time to planning (not less) should be enough to convince all business leaders that now, more than ever, is the time to take the time.
So why don’t more company leaders engage in strategic planning? Maybe it’s the name!
In many circles, the phrase “strategic planning” has come to mean an esoteric or worse yet, an academic exercise devoid of any practical relevance. Some may feel that strategic planning is for big companies whose senior executives can afford the time and expense of going off-site (read: junket) for a few days of high-level discussion.
So, just what is strategic planning? In our view, it is a structured process that enables us to identify your core strengths (your unique abilities), match those up with the biggest and best opportunities in your target market (strategy) and set a course for accomplishing targeted and prioritized objectives while maximizing your available resources (your plan).
Preparation and data are essential to the process. Data about your competitive position in the marketplace (as identified by your customers) is a helpful starting place. So is a thorough examination of our best relationships to develop areas of growth with existing accounts while establishing a profile for prospect development.
Three essentials for an effective planning session. First, engage the services of a skilled, experienced facilitator. Resist the temptation to try and save a few dollars by doing this yourself. Strategic planning facilitation is easy when you don’t know what you’re doing and quite difficult when you do. Besides, you should be an active participant in the discussion, and it is nearly impossible to do this if you are acting as facilitator.
Second, if possible, do not do this in your conference room. I’m not exactly sure why but being off-site creates a different kind of thought process in the minds of the participants (and they won’t be running back to their desks during each break). The location does not have to be far away, fancy or expensive but it absolutely should be different than the day-to-day work environment.
Third, the planning group should come together as colleagues, which means everyone (yes, including the owner/CEO) needs to check their title at the door.
Finally, having “rules of engagement” are highly recommended. For a list of suggested meeting ground rules, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is nothing vague, mysterious, or evasive about strategic planning. When done well, it is about eliminating distractions, confusion, and complexity; making sense of our best opportunities; and aligning our organizational resources in the direction of our bigger, better future.
Doesn’t now seem like a good time to start?
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.