What Key Elements Should a Strategic Plan Contain?
A strategic plan is the big key to success in any business.
Companies rarely thrive when they remain stagnant. Setting goals and objectives for the future are part and parcel of moving forward, whether you’re a new start up or a major corporation. A future strategic plan could include developing your customer base, expanding your geographic reach, creating exciting new products for the market or even streamlining your operation so that it performs more productively.
It’s all part of the evolutionary process.
What is Strategic Management?
Strategic management is all the work that goes into monitoring, assessing and analysing, implementing and creating everything that helps a business achieve its goals and objectives. You might, for instance, have a long term goal to increase productivity by 20%. Strategic management includes everything you need to get to this point – the extra staff you have to employ, the marketing strategy you might use, the time you’ll ideally want to implement the strategy, the methods you’re going to employ and so on.
Essentially, strategic management revolves around three key questions. Where is your business now? Where do you want it to be in the future? How are you going to get there?
Your Strategic Plan: What to include
Any strategic plan will depend on the industry you are in and what you want to achieve but most have common characteristics which form the spin of any process. The aim of these tenets is to clarify what the position is and what needs to be done so that everyone involved understands where the business is heading and, more importantly, how to get there.
Where Are You Now?
Of course, you can’t progress if you don’t know where you’re setting out from.
- The first part of understanding this is your mission statement. It’s why your business was created in the first place and what it’s purpose is. Essentially, it’s the foundation on which everything is built. You need to put it in clear, concise wording: Why do you exist?
- Next, you should consider what guides you. These are the values and principles that your business operates by, the characteristics that you are not going to compromise on. What do you believe and what are you truly committed to?
- Once you have all that you need to carry out a SWOT analysis. New businesses tend to avoid this but it’s vital if you want to follow the next stage and begin setting goals for the future. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. They all give you a good idea of where your business stands in the world today.
Planning ahead is essential for any business and asking the question: Where are we heading? is an integral part of that. Of course, the future can sometimes be hard to predict – things can get in the way. New competitors can come onto the market, the economic environment can change, to name just a few.
- What are you good at? In other words, how does your business assess its competitive advantage? What sets you apart from the rest? More importantly, what can your company do better than the rest in the future?
- Being clear about your vision for the future is imperative. You need to have a strong vision statement that states implicitly where you want to be in one, five or even ten years’ time.
The nuts and bolts of progress are contained in your strategic plan. This is the roadmap that defines how you are going to achieve your vision. If you’ve done all the ground work with the previous questions, this should fall into place easily. That doesn’t mean implementation is going to be a piece of cake but you should have the key components that make success more likely than not.
- Define your strategic objectives and the key activities you need to perform to achieve your vision.
- Does your strategy match your current capabilities? If not, what components do you need to add?
- Put in place the short term goals that allow you to meet your long term strategy – in other words, the short steps that lead to your destination.
- Set out the action items that lead to the achievement of your short term goals.
- Make sure you have the right metrics in place that help you measure success and failure accurately and use these to amend, tweak or boost your planning as you move ahead.
Finally, you need to ensure that everyone buys into the strategic plan and is aware of its existence. No strategy works unless everyone is pulling in the same direction. At the heart of success, therefore, is choosing the best plan, adding in great communication and ensuring your business has the tools it needs to meet those future goals and achieve your vision.