How a Strategic Plan will Help Your Business Succeed

You might have a great vision, but if your organization doesn’t have a strategic plan, you’re bound to go off course.

In the last issue of Douglas, I wrote about how to set your business vision —
a statement of what your organization uniquely delivers and how that offering impacts the world. It’s your why. Your vision anchors your strategic plan, which outlines the steps your organization will take in achieving that vision.

Once you’ve got your vision ironed out, it’s time to bite into the strategic plan — this is your how. This plan is the marriage of your mission, vision, core values and long-term goals. It helps you set a course and achieve alignment.

It’s easy to get your head around what a strategic plan is if you think of your organization as a sailboat: the strategic plan is the course you set to get where you want to go.

Without Culture, Strategy Fails

Staying with the sailboat analogy, you must take into consideration the condition of your crew. You can have the most dashing and capable boat on the sea, but without people who are in alignment about how to sail the thing, your course doesn’t matter because you’re not going anywhere.

Once you set the direction of where you want to be as an organization three or five years from now, ask yourself what culture you’re going to create, so that the journey is more enjoyable, you get there more efficiently and there’s no mutiny.

Hopefully, in establishing your values, mission and vision, you’ve already taken the pulse of your organization by bringing people together to ask what they think is significant about the work they do.

“It’s the whole notion of ‘bought in’ versus ‘brought in,’” says Roy Group CEO Todd Walsh. “There’s so much wisdom in taking the time to ask, instead of buggering off with a five iron and a flip chart and coming back and dumping something on your employees.”

Do All Organizations Need It?

Yup. Unless you’re operating in an area with unlimited demand and a recession-proof supply line, there has to be a strategy.

A strategic plan creates a framework for hanging goals on, for articulating the things you’ll use to measure outcomes and for ensuring every action your organization takes is in support of your mission and vision.

Strategic planning is often the furthest thing from the minds of startup founders, in part because the people at the core of a new venture are often of like mind, with similar values and an inexhaustible energy supply. As with the first year of a new relationship, though, that oxytocin-soaked haze of desire doesn’t last — nor is it any good in creating structure for growth.

A strategic plan can save your skin and keep you from running aground when problems pop up, such as when a customer calls with an order that’s shockingly out of proportion to your production capacity and you need to quickly bring onboard new team members to handle the growing workload.

Can I Create My Own Strategic Plan?

Absolutely! In that bible of business growth called Scaling Up, author Verne Harnish shows you how to create your strategic plan. But ask yourself: To what degree will I, as the leader of this organization, get in the way of this process? It’s not uncommon for an organization to draw up its own strategic plan — and end up with the boss’s fingerprints all over it. Kind of like writing your own report card or buying a “skinny” mirror: easy but ultimately ineffective.

Your chief goal in the planning process is to create a setting where people feel that they can be honest and open. A neutral third party removes the CEO from being the final arbiter and can hold the leader accountable in a way team members may not feel comfortable with.

Ask yourself whether someone other than you would be the best person to facilitate and lead your team through the process.

Yes, there’s a cost associated with hiring a consultant to help you create a strategic plan; however, there’s also a real range in prices. Ask around: Victoria is a word-of-mouth city so look for those organizations whose sailboats are sailing smooth and swiftly and get the names of their consultants.

Smooth Sailing

With your course set, your crew focused on a common goal and supported by a positive culture, you are ready to set sail. Yes, there will be storms, but there’s no question anymore about where you are going. Now you just need to focus on getting there.

Alex Van Tol works with organizations to shape and communicate their brand stories. From real estate to tech, she uncovers what makes organizations tick — and what can help them grow.

This article is from the February/March 2020 issue of Douglas.