It's Time to Revisit Strategy.
By Dr. Rick Johnson, CEO Strategist, LLC
Friday, 13th November 2009
This year has been a tough year and even the most respected economists can't say for sure when we will see the real recovery; The good news is that there are positive signs.

Even better news is the fact that you made it through one of the roughest recessions in our history. That means you have cleaned out your closets, weeded your garden, upgraded your work force and created a team of employees that are the best of the best. That means you and your company should be poised and ready to really take advantage of the real recovery whenever it happens.

So……… now is not the time to dig deeper into the bunker. Now is the time to start thinking about revisiting your vision. Now is the time to dust off that strategic plan if you have one. If not, it would be exceptionally wise to consider creating a strategy team and begin creating a new or revised strategic plan. Don't wait until the fish start jumping in the boat again or you may be looking at the backside of your competition who is running out in front.

Don't be concerned about finding the "perfect way" to conduct strategic planning.

Let's start by talking about strategic focus. Leadership models and new business models are key ingredients to success when coming out of a recession. The successful business in 2010 & 2011 will focus on strategic thinking by harnessing the creativity and innovation of the employees. The vehicle to accomplish this is the strategic planning process

Strategy serves as the organization compass and roadmap to future success. Strategic thinking must be clear and communicated effectively throughout the organization. Remember, recession can have a very negative impact on attitude and moral. Energizing employees by getting them involved in strategic planning can negate most of their fears and reaffirm the positive message you have been communicating.  Defining objectives and developing initiatives and action plans to meet new objectives is the basis of strategic planning.

Strategic planning is a management tool. It is used to help an organization clarify its future direction – to focus its energy, and to help members of the organization work toward the same goals. The planning process adjusts the organization's direction in response to a changing environment. Strategic planning is a disciplined effort to support fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does and why it does it, with a focus on where it wants to go and how it is going to get there.

The scope of the strategy development process for any company is dependent upon individual business needs. The strategic planning process is a time and resource-consuming endeavor that involves many people in the organization. This process includes both tactical and strategic application.

Executive teams become so immersed in the day to day activities of running the business during a recession that strategic thinking with respect to long term planning is often not a priority. However, effective leaders recognize the value of strategic thinking backed up by a strategic plan.

Strategic planning can provide:
  • A structure for the decision making process with curbs and milestones set to guide the management team
  • A basis for initiating new products and processes that are in alignment with and in support of long term objectives
  • A vehicle for the development of employees support retention and bench strength
  • The creation of change with a vehicle to manage that change
A strategic plan is not a business plan and it is not the same as your annual budget with departmental objectives. However, these vehicles become a part of the tactical support for meeting strategic objectives once the strategic plan has been approved and implemented. To be successful in this century requires a heightened sense of awareness about what is going on both inside and outside of the business.

It is understood that even the most effective visionary leaders of today do not have a crystal ball that can predict the future. Consequently, an integral part of the strategic planning process is developing a key set of assumptions during the end game planning process that is based on both internal and external data. By understanding market dynamics, internal cultural shifts and identified critical constraints you have a much greater chance of success.

What's Really Involved?

Strategic planning involves anticipating the future environment and creating an end game analysis so the decisions are made in the present. This means that over time, the organization must regularly perform trend analysis in order to make the best decisions it can at any given point – it must manage, as well as plan, strategically.

Strategic planning is not a substitute for the exercise of judgment by leadership. Ultimately "the buck stops somewhere." The strategic planning process does not make the organization work – it can only support the sound judgment and reasoning skills that people bring to the organization.

Strategic planning is a creative process the starts with the visionary creativity of the owner or CEO.  The fresh insight it engenders might very well alter past initiatives. Planning also consumes resources which are precious commodities. It can be an overwhelming and daunting task, but it is a process that eventually defines the direction and activities of the organization. Despite its overwhelming nature, the benefits of planning can far outweigh the hard work and pain involved in the process.

I cannot emphasize enough that the true value of a strategic plan is not in the document itself. It is in the process of creating it, involving many of your employees from the bottom up. This empowers them to be more effective and better-informed leaders, managers and decision makers.

The time devoted to the planning process varies from organization to organization and you must decide how much time you will devote to the kick off planning process meeting. This can take the form of a two-day retreat or it can be an extended process. The organization will begin to realize benefits from the start.

Fundamental benefits to the planning process include:
  • A framework and a clearly defined direction with unified support
  • A clear vision and purpose that is owned by all employees
  • Commitment to the organization and its goals by the employees
  • Set priorities that match company resources 
  • Trend analysis that creates confidence in the ability to take risks
  • Accountability
  • Organizational structure and clarity
I know some of you are so involved in fighting fires that you believe there isn't time to develop a strategic plan. Some of you may consider long term planning a waste of time. Some believe long term planning is what you are going to do after lunch and some may even believe there is no value in strategic planning because as the owner/CEO you know what it takes to be successful and all your employees need to do is listen to you.

Look, to thrive instead of survive coming out of a recession means that you must create and leverage every competitive advantage you possibly can. The strategic planning process alone will help you identify and create competitive advantage.

Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution's "Leadership Strategist", founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail rick@ceostrategist.com.  Don't forget to check out the Lead Wolf Series that can help you put more profit into your business.

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