It’s “Silly Season” for strategic planning. With many organizations thinking about scheduling executive retreats and off-sites this Fall to work through their strategic planning and roadmap development, far too many of them have realized that the end date of their farthest strategic horizon, typically three years, coincides with the year 2020. I’d have to use two hands now to count the number of client sites I have recently visited where big, visual displays are showcasing their ‘2020 Vision’ strategic initiatives, complete with the predictable eye test chart, eyeglasses, binoculars, telescope or the 20/20 symbol prominently highlighted! Okay, its corny, but we’ll let them have their “fun.”
Claiming to have a strategy isn’t really all that difficult. It is simply the purposeful decision to be something by a certain time in the future. Seriously, its that simple. If your organization decides it wants to be the recognized market leader in widget distribution in two years, you’ve just established your stated strategy. Transforming your “strategy” beyond a simple statement and into actionable plans and tasks, however, is a bit more challenging. To pull that off, you need to think about about setting a goal, picking a niche, considering internal and external factors and establishing a deadline. Strategies can take many forms across the spectrum of time. Long-term strategy is usually a “softer goal” that defines the organization’s intended place in the market, while mid-range strategies are typically more focused and include specific areas of operational improvement or adjustment, milestones and more detailed plans or objectives.
Unfortunately, too many organizations simply use “strategic planning” sessions as an excuse to play golf in the morning and tackle the “tough” work of pulling together some lofty ideas, stretch goals and a slick slide deck to share at the next company meeting or quarterly report. What’s typically produced from these off-site meetings are so high level that calling them “10,000 ft. view strategies” would be a gross understatement!
Real strategic development takes its ancient roots from military tactics and extends it to business operations. Formally defined as “a plan of action designed to achieve a desired goal,” in the context of organizational management, it is the vision, plan and direction of an organization, defined over a set period of time, and designed to achieve a specific business goal such as growth, profit, meeting the needs of customers, etc.
Developing an effective strategy involves analyzing the competitive environment in which the organization operates followed by making a series of decisions about how the organization will best position itself to compete in the marketplace. This initial process ends with a series of goals or objectives for the organization to pursue, along with metrics to ensure that progress is being made. This activity also ensures a focus on market and environmental trends, developing responses to various potential future scenarios and observing consumer preferences and behaviors.
Designing an effective strategy requires that organizations see into the future, define a purpose, mission and goal, analyze trends and current events, conjure up scenarios and develop tactics and measures for reaching the desired end state. Typically, the process uses the following approach:
- Scenario Planning
- Future State Analysis
- Research & Planning
- Scenario Development
- Scenario Execution
- Scenario Outputs
- Strategic Planning
- Historical Analysis
- Definition of Current Vision / Mission
- Internal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis
- External SWOT Analysis
- Strategy Execution Planning
- OGSM Framework
- OGSM Framework
- Customer/Market Analysis
- Market Profiling § Exploitation Analysis
- Saturation Analysis
- Growth Rate
- Distribution Channels
- Supply/Vendor Channels
- Needs Analysis
By the time a strategy has been thought out, defined and planned, it begins to take on more of an implementation or execution-based look and feel. Rather than statements of intention, execution plans define specific actions, approaches, time boxes and resources being put to task in making the strategy real. In essence, to bring order to a set of activities that are purposely designed and planned to bring about organizational strategy. Now you know why a firm like ours, that specializes in project and innovation management, has such a laser-like focus on strategic development. Its the first stepping stone on the much longer roadmap to success!