Whether you are planning a personal strategy, a business plan or a production process, I have found that strategic planning follows the same steps. The first step in this process is to decide what is important. What is your mission, your vision, your values? What are the guiding principles you will use to filter every decision you make? At B2BCFO® our values are honesty, integrity and objectivity. Once this is understood it is then easy for a firm, as well as for an individual partner, to align any decision against this value statement and make the right decision.
The second step in the process is to have well thought out goals. If you are going to be constructing a building, you start with a clear idea and visual of what the building looks like. You have the engineering drawings, blueprints, elevations, site plan, all of which are necessary to build the building that was envisioned by the customer. This same concept applies to a personal plan. Do you want to retire? When would that be? How much in assets would you like to have to maintain what lifestyle? All of these questions and many more, help develop your plan.
The third factor in the plan is to align the various systems necessary to achieve the goal. By systems we mean such things as your HR policies, how you hire, train, motivate and compensate your employees. Do you have the tools, processes, technology in place to facilitate the goal attainment? Do your overall company policies align with the values you wish to follow to help you achieve your goals?
I was recently in a retail office supply store attempting to return a defective product, a charger for a laptop computer, which broke within two weeks of buying it. When we spoke to the service people they told us that unless we had the original packaging for this $99 item they could not refund or replace the item. The reason for this was that they could not, in turn, get compensated from the supplier. Therefore, if they could not get their $99 back then I could not get mine. I am not sure what their mission, vision, values and goals are as an organization, but I do know that customer service is not one of them and for $99 they lost a customer for life. On the flip side, one of my clients is a manufacturing operation. One of their value propositions is that no defect will knowingly leave their shop and should there be a problem in the field their value statement is to fix the problem within 24 hours. They operate in all 50 states, but they take pride in telling story after story about how they solve these problems. But not just that; they learn from the story telling so that the same situation will not be repeated. Their systems are correctly aligned to their value statements.
I believe the next step is the most critical and the one in which many organizations fail. This step is the execution of the plan. You may have the best plan, systems and policies, but if those responsible for executing the plan are ill-prepared and do not take the initiative, are inefficient or do not follow up, then the plan can go awry. In a normal business process there are milestones that need to be met for the process to flow on time. Going back to my building example, there is site work to be performed, followed by the foundation, then structure, interior building systems, then on to finish work. Each and every one of these separate tasks needs to be mapped out, contracts need to be negotiated, timelines need to be established and processes need to be managed. If anyone falls behind, the entire project is at risk. The same is true for the overall business plan or a personal development plan. Each step needs to be understood, laid out and executed, all being mapped against the timeline of the goal. If this does not happen, then the entire plan is at risk.
The fifth and final step in the process is to step back and take a realistic look at the business, the project or the personal plan. This should occur on a reasonable and ongoing basis. I recommend to each of my clients to look at their business process and evaluate at the end of any project how they did. Did the work come in on time and on budget? What take-a-ways can we learn from what just happened? This is true for the business or personal plan as well. Great organizations continually review and apply these learning’s to the process. To borrow from Jim Collins, make sure you have the right people on the bus and make sure they are in the right seats. When looking at the business overall it is important to not just look at internal processes but what is happening in the industry or the economy overall and what effects will they have on your business. Then rework the plan and start the cycle all over again. Based upon the work of Gary Harpst this is how excellence is created and maintained.