The Beauty of a Plan! Strategic Planning 101

I’m a planner. When I have a plan – I’m golden! My team knows this about me and understands the importance of me asking for planning meetings and being patient as I take them through my annual planning process. It’s the same every year but the outcome for me is so liberating. I can actually sleep at night knowing that I have carefully thought out the business priorities for the year and know that I am focussing on initiatives that, if executed properly, will grow our business.

So you may ask – what is the process? Actually it is rather simple and certainly not rocket science. It is grounded in best practices that have been around for decades. The process starts with a review of our previous year plan. We bring members from different parts of our business together (finance/operational, consulting and marketing) and conduct what we refer to as a “situational analyses”. This analysis includes a review of: what are our clients are saying; what did we say we were going to do last year; and what were the results? For those items that we didn’t execute on we ask ourselves why? Are they still relevant, and if yes, then we need to bring them forward for consideration in the upcoming year.

We then conduct an Environmental Scan that looks at the political, economic, social and technological (PEST) trends we can expect over the next 3 years that will impact our business and our clients. This environmental scan also includes an analysis of our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). Based on the PEST and the SWOT we develop our Strategic Priorities for the next 3 years. That’s a half day of work for our team! We then take a break and reflect on the work we did.

Following a short break, the partners meet to finalize the Strategic Priorities and draft what we believe are the goals/objectives for the upcoming year, which we take back to the team we initially brought together with the planning. The team reviews/revises the goals/objectives and together we map out the Plan identifying action items that will ensure we reach our goals. We identify together who will be accountable and what the timelines or measures of success will be. This is another half day of meetings. At the end of this half day we have our draft business plan for the upcoming year! Once again we circulate the outcomes to the team, ask for feedback and then finalize.

After two half days of planning with the team we have our business plan. We have kept the process simple and invested the time required to focus on what we believe the priorities are to grow our business and service our clients. It’s time well spent! So to summarize here are the steps:

  • Situational Analysis – review client feedback and previous year’s plan and results
  • Conduct an Environmental Scan which includes a PEST and SWOT
  • Identify Strategic Priorities for the next 3 years
  • Identify goals, accountabilities and timelines/measures of success for each Strategic Priority
  • Finalize the Plan

The last and most important step in the process is communicating the Plan to your staff. Communicate in advance that you will hold a meeting (two hours should suffice) and you would like everyone to attend (in-person if possible but virtually can work to). Decide on the important and relevant aspects of your Plan that you want to share with them. Make sure you link it to the mission, vision and values of your organization. Note, if you are finding it hard to find this link then you need to re-think your strategy before your staff meeting!

Engage your staff in conversation. Present for a maximum of 30 minutes and then have the employees discuss in small groups what they heard and how they can impact the strategy and the goals/objectives you present to them. Give them an opportunity to formulate questions they want to ask and then wrap up the session with a Q&A. Make this an interactive session with your staff – have some fun and get them excited about the upcoming year and what they can do to make a difference. Yes that’s the beauty of a Plan – everyone knows what is expected of them!

Looking for support in putting a strategic planning process in place for your organization? Salopek & Associates would be happy to assist you in developing or facilitating a strategy session to help you establish and communicate your strategic business priorities. Contact us to learn more about strategic planning for the success of your organization and team.

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