Unfortunately, many organizations don’t develop a strategy to guide them into an unpredictable future; they rationalize the current planning process to be too complicated, time consuming and expensive.
And they’re right.
Numerous people gather in a room for a strategic planning session. Subject matter experts descend of the group and try to impress everyone with their detailed knowledge of the many governing factors that need consideration in the strategy building process, and many days are consumed — in my experience wasted — to get the strategy perfect.Normally the services of a third party firm are used to both facilitate the session and provide expert content to the plan direction and efficacy. This is a clever way of avoiding having the people responsible for the strategy’s success taking ownership of the direction taken by applying their own opinions and good judgement.The planning team is presented with material, they ask questions about various aspects of it and in the end most of the time they agree with the results of the analysis and direction proposed.But at the end of the day, the traditional planning process takes so much time and energy, there is insufficient time left to develop how the plan will be executed in the trenches by real people. And the planning team is left with a strategy that may make sense on paper, but can’t be executed effectively because there was insufficient time devoted to implementation.
Get insanely focused on execution
Given that eventually any strategy or plan must result in action, the best planning process is predicated on the premise: keep it simple, get to the gut issues quickly and ACT.Minimize the strategy direction setting time; maximize the implementation action planning time.Loosen up on strategy development; tighten up on execution.The strategy-building process I developed was necessary because although the field of experts who could help me develop a theoretically pristine direction was wide and deep, the number who actually could help in plan execution was close to zero.The process I developed was simple, fast and time efficient. And unlike its brethren, it used the knowledge and experience of the planning team members rather than going with a third party planning expert — added benefit was the team building that went on during the process.My process — the strategic game plan — was based on discovering the answers to 3 questions; the answers defined the strategy. Growth — HOW BIG do you want to be?Most planning processes end with financial results. They calculate the growth results of executing the strategic direction chosen.My process starts with your growth intensions, and builds the strategy from HOW BIG you want to be. The reason is simple: more aggressive growth goals require a more aggressive — and risky — strategy, and more moderate growth goals need a more incremental — and less risky — strategy.The traditional planning approach forgets that there is an extremely tight relationship between revenue growth and strategic intent; my strategic game plan doesn’t and that’s what makes my approach DiFFERENT than others. Customers — WHO do you want to SERVE?You have a goal to grow revenue 25% annually over the next 36 months. The next question is where are you going to get it? Where are you going to invest your scarce resources of time and money.It boils down to selecting a group of customers who collectively have the potential to generate the revenue you have decided to go after.To get the right answer to this question requires an intimate understanding of the various customers you serve. You can’t choose the customer group to generate the revenue you covet if you don’t understand the propensity of your various customer segments to buy from you — discover their secrets and success will follow. Competitors — HOW will you compete and WIN?It would be nice if you were the only provider of products and services to the customer group you’ve chosen, but that’s not likely to be the case. There is likely to be healthy aggressive competitors targeting the same customers you want to target, so the challenge you face is to determine how you will differentiate your organization from all others you will be competing with.Why should people choose your organization when they have other choices available? What makes your team special in view of the alternatives available?HOW will you compete is intended to explore the competencies of your organization that you can exploit to gain competitive advantage, with emphasis on how you can be positioned in the customer group you’ve chosen as the ONLY one that does what you do.By answering these 3 questions using the expertise of those in the room you will have your strategy quickly (less than 3 days) and inexpensively (a personalized experience for your team). And it will be owned by every person who has contributed to it which means execution will follow.