By Erica Olsen
Develop Rules for the Strategic Plannning Process

In my work, clients often ask for a tried and true method to evaluate all the strategic choices that are in front of them. Unfortunately, in my experience, I haven’t found such a fail-safe method. What does work is establishing a set of parameters or rules that are specific and unique to your operating environment. Use these rules to judge any and all strategic choices that come up.

Clearly in the strategic planning process, you seek out options and choices. But such decisions occur regularly outside of strategic planning. By establishing a set of rules, you can quickly evaluate whether an opportunity is really an opportunity or a distraction. Develop a set of rules and use it as a litmus test. If the opportunity doesn’t pass the test, it’s out.

Here are some categories of rules:

  • Priority rule: With this rule, you prioritize some opportunities over others based on their connection to reaching your vision. Set a rule to require that all opportunities must help you reach your vision.
  • Timing rule: This financial rule helps you prioritize opportunities based on how much money you want to see returned within what time period. Pull in your finance or accounting people to help you establish this one.
  • Boundary rule: This rule says that every opportunity is evaluated based on whether it’s within your mission. Set a rule to require that the opportunity aligns with the organization’s core mission and values.
  • How-to rule: Develop a rule that requires you to sketch out how to implement the opportunity if you took advantage of it before jumping in. If you can’t clearly define an action plan for the opportunity, you know that trying to execute it will go poorly.