Strategic Direction for Your Company Back to Basics"
By Barri Carian, principal,
During the dot.com mania, strategic planning took a back seat
to creating thick business plans with a lot of colored charts
and unrealistic pro-formas. These plans focused on raising money
but had little relevance to running and growing a business, and
usually sat on the shelf never to be read again. Some argued that
strategic planning was obsolete because the business world was
changing too fast and companies needed to remain flexible to respond
to opportunities -- particularly in the high-tech environment.
Today much has changed -- the
economy, the availability of funding, the attractiveness of new
business ventures, to name a few. Yet, many businesses still operate
without a clear sense of strategic direction.
Strategic planning, when wholly
integrated into the companys culture, operational plans,
and performance and management systems, provides a clear sense
of direction for all in the organization and a context within
which to evaluate new business opportunities and allocate resources.
Equally important, functional and individual goals are aligned
in support of the companys strategic objectives, creating
momentum and movement in the right direction.
So what are the elements of
successful strategic planning?
The 40,000-ft. View --
Where do you want to go?
Vision: What is the ideal future
state of your company?
Mission: What is the purpose
of your company?
Values: What are the companys
core beliefs, and are they in alignment and support of your
vision and mission?
Industry trends: What is happening
in your industry now and what does the future look like?
Value proposition: What problems
do you solve? Whom do you solve them for?
Competitive analysis: What
makes your company unique?
SWOT analysis: Where are you
now: your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
Strategic Objectives: What
are the three to five strategic initiatives that will have
the most impact in propelling your company to reach your
The Game Plan -- How
will you get there?
Goal setting: Determine specific
company goals for the next 12 months that will move you
toward achieving your strategic objectives.
Department goals: Decide how
each department will contribute toward the company goals.
Action steps: Choose the activities
that will have to occur to achieve your goals. Set a deadline
for each, and assign a responsible party.
Communication: Inspire and
update employees along the way.
Execution and Management
-- How will you know youre there?
Measurement: Align all operational
reporting to monitor your key indicators.
Follow-up: Meet regularly to
address progress on key objectives, unexpected obstacles
or opportunities, and to make needed adjustments to your
Recognize and reward: Acknowledge
the effort and results of your employees.
Some final thoughts on
Taking a disciplined approach
to strategic planning does not mean creating an unwieldy and rigid
document. You are creating a roadmap for the company -- setting
direction, defining the route, drawing a clear picture of the
destination and identifying the progress at checkpoints along
the way. Circumstances may intervene to cause some elements to
change: the key is to be aware and ready to respond when that
However, changing your strategy
often can result in confusion, multiple directions and depleted
resources. According to Michael Porter, Harvard Business School,
"Strategy must have continuity. Its about the basic
value youre trying to deliver to customers and about which
customers youre trying to serve. That is where continuity
needs to be the strongest. Otherwise, its hard for your
organization to grasp what the strategy is. And its hard
for customers to know what you stand for."
Barri Carian is the Principal
of Carian Consulting. As a former COO and partner in two successful
start-up firms, she now specializes in helping business owners
jump-start profits and grow their businesses. She can be reached
at (949) 640-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org