It may seem that we’re just barely half-way through 2012, but don’t look now – we are only 4 months away from 2013! And, we all know that effective strategic planning is a very time-intensive process that requires a great deal of information and critical thinking to ensure your strategy is robust, actionable and measurable.

business-strategyWhy is this important, you may ask?

Because not having a strategic plan is like taking a cross-country vacation without a roadmap.

  • How do you know where you are going?
  • What obstacles are you likely to encounter?
  • What can you expect when you get there?
  • And, how will you even know if you’ve arrived?

It has been well-documented that companies that are consistently recognized as top performers all have some formalized plan for where they are going, and those that don’t simply flounder. Among those successful companies, all can cite the following similarities in plan content:

  • Research that demonstrates alignment with what customers and other stakeholders are telling them about what they need/want
  • Content that drives annual business/operating plans, providing direction and focus for decision-making
  • A detailed description of how the company intends to grow and prosper over the next 2-5 years
  • A description that provides employees with a common understanding of how their work aligns with company objectives
  • A mechanism to monitor, analyze and evaluate what’s been accomplished to determine if the strategy really worked

With that in mind, here are 5 keys to ensure your strategic plan will support the needs of your business:

  1. Review Your Market Data Conduct a thorough assessment of what’s going on in your marketplace; critically evaluate your organization’s past performance; understand and evaluate the competition
  2. Be Customer-Centric Conduct interviews and feedback sessions with past, current and future customers to really understand their motivators, what’s going on in their business and needs in order to be able to deliver relevant solutions
  3. Create a Plan Team Include leadership, managers and employees in the planning so that when the plan is implemented, you have across-the-board buy-in
  4. Assign a Plan Champion! Identify someone who will be responsible for keeping the plan on track and who will hold others accountable to ensure successful plan implementation
  5. Monitor and Measure Schedule regular evaluations regarding how things are going to ensure the results you are achieving align with the goals and objectives established in the plan

Bottom line, every business needs a roadmap to success.  So, if you’re experiencing one or more of the following, you better start planning now:

  • Many opportunities and initiatives underway simultaneously, requiring lots of activity, but producing few results
  • Little alignment of initiatives and efforts among various functional areas of the business
  • Limited financial resources to allocate to a wide variety of priorities
  • Crisis seems to drive daily business activity

Has your organization begun the strategic planning process yet for 2013? Please share any insights or revelations that you would add to the keys above!

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