Strategic Planning in Turbulent Times

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According to a recent survey of 1,800 business executives conducted by Booz & Company, most business leaders feel they have too many conflicting priorities and struggle to make day-to-day decisions that are consistent with the company’s overall strategy. Booz & Company concludes that most companies today lack “coherence,” a clear capabilities-based strategy that drives the business.

We’re seeing this lack of focus in many businesses today. Some companies, battered by the recession, are abandoning their strategic plan to grasp at anything holding the promise of new sales potential. They’re introducing new products or services and going after new markets without really considering whether these endeavors make sense for the company. Other businesses that have never implemented a strategic plan drift along according to the CEO’s priority of the day. Whatever the cause, the result is an organization that chases after too many and often inappropriate objectives without ensuring that the appropriate resources have been allocated to accomplish them. It’s no wonder managers encounter conflicting priorities and have trouble deciding where to focus their time and resources. And it’s no wonder that these companies don’t do well.

The strategic plan is the bedrock of business success. Done well, the planning process forces your leadership team to define why your business exists, where the business is going and what you must do to get there. The plan defines your business objectives and details your plans and timetable for accomplishing them. It assigns accountability and deadlines for results.

On a day-to-day business, the strategic plan gives your entire organization their marching orders. When employees ask where to focus their efforts, the answer is simple: work on tasks that are consistent the strategic plan. When budget allocations must be made, the answer is clear: fund the projects that are consistent the strategic plan. In short, the strategic plan is the source of every direction and every decision. Every day.

Many businesses resist the idea of strategic planning because they fear an arduous process that will overwhelm the organization. We recommend the One Page Business Planning and Performance System for several reasons. It’s easy to use and allows you to complete the planning process quickly. The concise format makes it a great ongoing reference that employees will use. It also provides scorecards, progress reports and status checks to let you know how you’re doing against your objectives.

One of my client companies had run a successful organization for over thirty years.  It was the dominant firm in the region and had a loyal and relatively dedicated workforce.  However, the owner was a command and control leader.  There were no teams, just a relatively benevolent dictator.  He was also getting tired of the responsibility, the turbulence and the isolation.  Two years into an evolving strategic journey he is more relaxed and yet focused.  He has a very good team at the top, the Vision, Mission and objectives have never been as clear and accountability within the organization is increasing rapidly, as is the engagement of the employees.

If you don’t have a strategic plan in place, your business probably isn’t as successful as you’d like it to be – and it definitely isn’t as successful as it could be. Make a commitment to implement a strategic plan and align your organization around a handful of key objectives. Use that plan to drive your day-to-day operations and you’ll set the stage for your organization to achieve its full potential.

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