Why do you need a strategic planning process in place?

Whether you are a seasoned business executive or an entrepreneur just starting, having a strategic plan in place is paramount for your business. The strategic planning process, if done well, can provide guidance, direction, and clarity; it helps leaders catalogue and prioritise various business initiatives pursued within the organisation in line with the strategic plan. Without one, you could miss out on new opportunities, prioritise the wrong initiatives or, more likely, not have any clear priorities to guide decisions and the team.

There are several strategic frameworks available to help guide the strategic planning process, but its best to keep it simple:

Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different” – Michael Porter.

At Step Advisory, we simplify the often-complex process of strategic planning into four stages. This is done by helping you develop your overarching purpose, headline strategy, strategic themes, and importantly bringing it all down to practical, short-term objectives that will immediately move your strategy forward.

1. Overarching Purpose

A strategic plan needs a clear statement of the business’s purpose; its reason for existence. To develop a comprehensive strategy, you need to instil an ambition or purpose statement that provides a clear view of the ‘business of the future’, why it exists and what the business hopes to achieve. Distilling a clear corporate identity and combining the overall ambition clarifies why the business exists and what it hopes to accomplish on this journey.

2. Headline Strategy

Having agreed on a statement that encapsulates the business’s purpose, you need to choose how to achieve that purpose. While the details will become apparent in the themes and objectives, it is helpful to have a ‘rallying cry’ – something memorable that the organisation can garner its energy around for the next three to five years. It can provide clear direction as the fundamental choice or set of choices the organisation needs to make in pursuing its purpose. Headline strategies are often about the massive shifts an organisation needs to undertake in the long-term and where it needs to invest most of its resources and something for the leadership team to refer to in each of their engagements.

3. Strategic themes

If a strategy is about choice and action, then a strategic plan needs to incorporate the critical decisions that the organisation is making. What are the three to five choices you need to make about what you will do and, often more importantly, what you will not do? These choices define the themes that various leaders will take ownership of and drive across the business. They also guide the organisation and teams when decisions need to be made daily.

These themes are developed through sourcing the complete list of all strategic initiatives your company considers or pursues. Prioritisation is then required to identify the most critical areas of focus. You can then break down these themes into measurable objectives for accountability and effective execution. And that’s where initiatives, objectives and key results come in.

4. Initiatives, Objectives and Key Results

Once you have set your strategic themes, aiming for shorter-term objectives underpinned by various initiatives will help achieve the business’s goals. With a complete and clear alignment of your objectives, your business can allocate scarce resources behind a select few strategic initiatives and apportion accountability for delivery. You should prioritise one or two key initiatives or projects per theme for immediate focus. There may also be some key projects that will underpin and drive multiple themes. These will often emerge through the strategic planning process as the team becomes more precise about where the organisation is going and what to achieve to get there.

Step Advisory has OKR coaches on hand to help keep the focus on the strategic plan. Alternatively, we offer OKR training to organisations, helping to ensure that teams work together, united in a common language, using clear lines of communication and creating clarity around objectives.

How we can help your business with strategic planning

In our experience, many companies fall into the trap of ‘getting busy’ and trying to pursue too many initiatives while never successfully delivering on the most important ones, and that is where we come in. At Step Advisory, we help executives and management teams make sense of the multiple strategic projects and priorities they are juggling. Our strategic planning approach empowers you and your business with the tools needed to prioritise, resource, and successfully deliver on all the initiatives.

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