By Erica Olsen
Leaders: Success Takes Strategic Planning

Did you know that having a strategic plan is the best way to bring focus and direction to your organization AND drive growth at the same time?

According to a recent study by OnStrategy, a nationwide leader in on-demand strategic planning services, businesses that use strategic planning are 12 percent more profitable. The results from the 2006 OnStrategy Strategy Benchmark of 280 firms in the United States found that by just adding strategic planning to a business’ activities, organizations can experience an increase in net profit. Those firms whose top management had a high commitment to execute strategic planning reported an 80 percent increase in sales volume during that year, and firms whose top management had a lower commitment reported a 59 percent increase.

I think it’s important to stress here that successful strategic planning is a continuous process. It isn’t just a one-time event; you need to make it a habit. I know how easy it is to get lost in the process, especially when you’re also in the middle of your organizations’ everyday operations, and in the coming weeks I’d like to share some suggestions that should help you embed successful strategic planning concepts into your organization. Consider them an easy-to-follow Strategic Planning Process Checklist to help keep your team on track.

First, I urge you to “Get Ready and Get Organized”. This may sound elementary, but you’d be surprised by the number of businesses that sabotage their strategic planning efforts by poor preparation. Take your time here; this is about your past, present and future. I encourage you to identify the specific issues and choices your strategic plan should address. I’ll elaborate on this topic later, but for now you should start thinking about where it is exactly you want your organization to go. (i.e. Start thinking “big picture” and “end game”) Determine your organizational readiness. (i.e. Do you have complete commitment and support from top leadership and key management? Is yours a culture that is open to looking beyond the status quo to find new ways of doing things?) Create your planning committee (i.e. Who will you rely on to implement your strategic plan? Who will be you plan administrator and who will be your most valuable players?). And finally, identify the information which must be collected to help make sound decisions. (i.e. What reporting is necessary to access your current situation and measure your efforts in reaching your goals?) A plan is only as good as the information on which it’s based. Don’t rely on assumptions or hunches. Again, I can’t stress enough that you can never underestimate the power of preparation and research.

Please join me as we continue down the Strategic Planning Process Checklist in this space. Next time, I’ll discuss “Articulating your mission and vision”. Meanwhile, keep in mind that success is not a matter of chance, but rather success is a matter of choice.