The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for strategic planning. A decade ago, that meant looking a decade ahead, but no more. The disruptions, and shifts that came with them, over the past several years have taught us many lessons. The most important may be to expect the unexpected. Economic crashes, pandemics, wars, atmospheric rivers, and unprecedented heat waves, are just a few of the unforeseen disturbances that weren’t considered in strategic plans. The next disruptions to impact businesses won’t be either. But, there is a but.
First, though, let’s agree that developing a strategic plan for your business is still an important and valuable task. For one reason, some, like consultants Keystone Group International, believe that most of the time, strategic plans fail due to internal, not external, factors. Second, strategic planning galvanizes your core business beliefs. Joe Gavin, writing for Inc.com says it’s “more than a tactical operating plan laying out to-do’s; when done correctly, strategic planning provides clarity, creates alignment, and drives execution.” Paraphrasing Gavin’s key points:
- Clarity creates focus on the organization’s identity, mission, vision, purpose, and culture, and what differentiates it from its competitors. That provides a beacon for goals, performance indicators, and data-driven decisions.
- Alignment means that every employee knows the organization’s objectives and how their role contributes. This shared purpose flows into the marketplace, creating a unified and distinct position.
- With clarity and alignment, employees can execute cohesively and consistently with the organization’s values and vision. A strong strategic plan ensures everyone across an organization is marching in the same direction and generates accountability across every level, from intern to C-Suite.
Third, making decisions day to day, on the fly, isn’t sustainable. Every business needs to set goals and make plans to achieve those goals. So, let’s get back to the “but.”
Like everything else in the business world, strategic planning is evolving. It’s no longer an annual event that produces a multiyear plan that isn’t looked at again until the next annual event. It’s no longer based on the best course of action, as it appears on the day the plan is produced. It’s not brittle – only working until it’s not. No, strategic planning is now a process that allows for pivots. But the plan keeps you grounded in your identity and long-term goals.
In this series, we’re going to look at the merging of tactics, old and new, as well as introducing a simplified approach to strategic planning. Follow along to build a plan for your business that will help you succeed in a very uncertain business environment.
View More in This Series: Strategic Planning in a Capricious World