Strategic Planning

Date: 8/12/2019

In the previous article, we have followed a Business Owner in his quest to build up a successful business. Interestingly enough, my friend has been keeping me updated about his progress ever since we have touched base about the pain points of his business. What surprised me was the fact that he had managed to draft out an operational strategy for next year despite the many other plans that his company has yet to plan and execute. He truly means business and I admired him for the speed of his execution.

In our previous discussion, my friend did mention that his team members are either not going in the same direction or moving at the same pace. There is an obvious lack of synergy between the team members. My friend blamed himself for being lackadaisical in his management and he felt that he needed to hire someone better to manage the team.

After he had told me about his predicament, I then took some time to observe the team and how they work together. My observation led me to ask these four questions:

  1. Are the team members bonding together with the same vision that they hope to achieve in the future?
  2. To achieve the vision, have they established universally acceptable policies and understood these policies within the same definition?
  3. Do the team members agree that they must be willing to perform what is required of them individually in order to achieve the vision together?
  4. Did team members lay down actionable key performance review indicators to assess the performance of each individual in order to achieve that vision?

When I asked the second question, my friend was speechless. He could not answer the question at all. He finally understood that while he and his team had the vision, they lacked strategic planning to achieve what they had wanted to achieve.

Strategic planning is essential in every company, and a successful one enables any Business Owner to answer the four questions above. With good planning in place, it actually encourages the employees to take that initiative to follow the implemented plans in order to achieve their individual goals as well as the company’s.

Strategic planning also provides a blueprint for company leaders to identify opportunities as well as to make sufficient preparation to anticipate challenges that may come their way.

Of course, a successful strategic plan requires thorough planning and quality management. A good strategy will meet these five requirements:

  1. Strategies are initiated by the company leaders (hence, it should not be difficult to understand why I refused my friend’s request to be part of their strategic planning process. I told him that I can assist but will not be able to actively give them the answers);
  2. Strategies that are to be implemented should be shared and supported by people across the organization;
  3. The plan must be detailed to help the team understand the bigger picture (for example, whenever there is a need for discussion, the team members are able to easily visualize the plan);
  4. Positive and inspiring;
  5. The plan can be assessed based on its progress to know whether it will be a success or a failure.

I totally understand that many Business Owners chose to focus on business development. They are concerned about ensuring the stability of the company’s income to achieve corporate survival. However, as a business owner, you have to ask yourself: “What is your ‘why’ in starting this business?”

You must ensure that the ‘why’ is a strong conviction in order to build up the company that you have always wanted with a synergized team. A strong ‘why’ will enable you to lay down a solid strategic plan. In my previous article, I did mention that the ‘why’ cannot be plagiarized anywhere, especially from the internet. The conviction must come from yourself.

Strategic planning requires many aspects and it includes establishing a corporate vision, conducting external and internal environmental assessments, setting goals, prioritizing goals as well as performing impact analysis on each goal. On top of that, the planning also requires an action plan that requires periodical reviews on its effectiveness.

What I have mentioned so far wouldn’t be a difficult task for the students of a business management school or senior entrepreneurs hence I won’t go into details.

One thing that I have noticed over the years is the fact that many of these plans became just words on paper as the Business Owners did not see the planning through. They mainly lacked the persistence and the ability to track its performance.

I have been in the industry for many years. The one common phrase that I have had heard the most is this: “the plan cannot keep up with the change, so we’ll have to change the plan”. I am not against the change but I do advise that companies need to be wise in making the appropriate adjustments and change only where is needed. If a company is constantly making changes without making a proper analysis, then the company will only be a company that “follows the trend”. Wherever the trend is, that’s where the company will be headed. This will eventually encourage the employees or team members to only focus on the present without taking the future into consideration. When this happens, the strategic plan becomes redundant.

To avoid such situations in happening, I often will suggest to the Business Owner to take a step back and analyze the situation whenever a company encountered a problem, especially if the problem forces the company to come up with a Plan B. Don’t rush into making a change. Instead, gather the team members and identify whether the problem is an internal or an external one. If it is an internal problem, usually it is caused by the fact that the vision is not fully reflected in the operational aspect of the business. This may result in a broken or uncoordinated operation. If it is an external problem, it may lead to the need for improving the company’s vision statement or change it entirely. If it is the former, the Business Owner must make adjustments to the business processes and procedures in order to achieve an enhanced vision statement. If the latter occurs, the Business Owner must return to the very first step of strategic planning and ensure communication with the team on the change is always on par.