Strategic Planning Takes Guts.
By Dr. Rick Johnson
Wednesday, 16th December 2009
Developing a strategic plan may not seem to be a walk in the park; it may become the most challenging task you have ever undertaken as a leader.

It starts with your ability to articulate a vision in writing that your management team can use as a baseline to build a "Roadmap to Success"; the strategic plan. This vision for the future or "End Game" as I call it can be used at any time in the future to measure whether the business is maximizing success or on the road to failure. As a result, many presidents and CEO's will put this strategic planning process off as long as possible.

However, those leaders that step into the strategic planning arena quickly come to realize an abundance of benefits.

The Days of the "Lone Wolf" Leader are Gone

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.

Make no mistake, the days of the "Lone Wolf" leader at the top who dominates with power are gone. Successful privately held organizations have gone through the leadership evolutionary process. They understand that today's leader must create change in the organization to meet the needs of their customers, to meet the needs of their employees and to meet the needs of their vendor partners.

This is the primary reason to develop a strategic plan. You must gain a complete understanding of the company's core competencies, value propositions, market dynamics and challenges, opportunities for growth but most importantly it creates the kind of unification within the company that is essential for growing the business. This is especially true during tough economic times.

Strategic Planning is a Platform for Change

Strategic planning is a key process that adjusts an organization's direction in response to a changing environment. It supports the fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide an organization. A sound strategic plan can help define and focus a company's efforts to move in the right direction, using the best methods.

Show Me the Value

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. Creating a culture that embraces empowerment and working together as a team is probably the most effective way to create success. The more people work together and take ownership of the long term objectives the more  unity and teamwork become a direct route to success.

Time after time I am told by prior clients that the real value they received from the strategic planning process was in the personal development of the strategy team members and the involvement of the entire company working together as a team in a team atmosphere. The results seemed almost automatic.

The Strategic Planning Value Includes:

1. More direct success in executing action plans and initiatives. Ownership of action items are imperative with timelines and defined desired results allowing the team to tackle more complex projects more efficiently than just individual managers.

2. The strategic planning process allows the development of more creative solutions because it leverages the creativity and innovation of all the strategy team members. When team members bounce ideas off of each other, they arrive at solutions that may never have emerged alone. Seeing things from different perspectives is invaluable when it comes to personal leadership development.

3. Commitment to ideas and plans become an exciting part of the process as employees take ownership of the initiatives. When employees are involved in a project from the start, they are more likely to be committed to the ideals it represents. They also develop the unique ability to pass that excitement, that commitment and that ownership on to the entire organization.

4. Strategic planning utilizing CEO Strategists proprietary team process that starts with the Owners/CEO End Game and empowers the team to develop the roadmap without being intimidated by the presence of the CEO creates empowerment throughout the group that encompasses focus, process, discipline and accountability for the achievement of the "End Game – Vision for the Future."

That ownership not only challenges the team to be creative but it releases discretionary energy throughout the organization.

5. Strategic planning activities motivate your employees to deliver their very best effort on behalf of the company. The fundamental benefit of the planning process includes the development of the following:

  • A framework and a clearly defined direction with unified support
  • A clear vision and purpose owned by all employees
  • Enhanced employee commitment to the firm and its goals
  • A set of priorities that matches company resources
  • A trend analysis that generates the confidence to take risks
  • Accountability built in to a control process
A Common Shared Vision and Ownership of the Plan

Strategic planning creates a team culture that is necessary for success. Working together effectively is not automatic. It takes a specific effort and the development of a culture that is supported by executive management.

Shared experiences create unity and value. Knowledge transfer is essential for an organization to grow. Without knowledge transfer and the sharing of the planning experience it is difficult for the group to share the vision and work toward common goals.

More importantly, without the strategic planning experience it is much more difficult for employees to function together in such a manner that brings out the best in each other and the entire management team.

Those who do step up and develop a strategic plan will usually discover that it's not quite as formidable as it seems at first. The planning process can be a lot of fun, it does take "Guts" and courage to undertake this process but it's a remarkable confidence builder and an amazing learning experience for your leadership team and the entire company.

E-mail rick@ceostrategist.com if you need help or want to discuss your strategic planning process.

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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