“If you don’t know where you are going, you are certain to end up somewhere else.” – Yogi Bera
I came across this quote as I was doing research for this article. It highlighted the importance of investing time and energy into the development of a strategic plan in order to provide a clear blueprint of what you hope to achieve for your business.
While the concept of developing formal business strategies was being taught by the Harvard Business School in the 1920s, it wasn’t until the 1960s that strategic planning began to be introduced as a standard business tool. But is it still relevant today?
A quick web search indicates that yes indeed strategic planning is seen to be one of the most important functions any business should have in its decision-making toolbox.
Its importance stems from the fact that it allows businesses the opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive to situations as they arise. In addition, it provides a solid foundation on which a company can build and grow in a direction that helps it stay ahead of any competition.
One of the key steps and perhaps the first in developing a plan is the need to gather some critical information on your industry, competitors and what trends are affecting your sector. It is this data that will provide you with some insight when you start to do some self-analysis of your business.
The basic process behind a strategic plan also allows you to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats by conducting a SWOT or SOAR analysis … strengths, opportunities, aspirations, results. This allows you to develop both offensive and defensive strategies to help achieve your business goals.
Included in any strategic plan is the need to clearly define your mission and vision. These are not merely statements but guiding principles that form the cornerstones of the plan. They also provide a focus or sense of purpose for inspiring and motivating you, and/or your employees and even your customers.
As part of strategic planning, it is essential to establish a clear set of business goals and objectives. These in turn will necessitate the development of actions that need to be taken.
While strategic planning can be approached in different ways, it can be broken down into three basic fundamentals:
1. Where is your business now? Not just on a day-to-day basis but on a much broader perspective in terms of the marketplace.
2. Where do you want your business to go? The focus here is on the future and what opportunities may be out there in the next three to five years.
3. How will you achieve your goals and objectives? These are the actions that your business will have to take if you want to grow.
One thing to remember that is crucial to every strategic plan is its measure of practicality and achievability.
Joe Smith is a communications consultant and an accomplished fine artist. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org