What got you here won't get you there
December 15, 2015
By Katie Thomas, CPA, CFP®
Having spent a good portion of my time during the last few months involved with strategic planning for both my firm and several of our clients, the thought “what got you here won’t get you there” has been a recurring theme in my life recently. Although I do not know the original source of this quote, some of you may recognize it as the title of Marshall Goldsmith’s book which focuses on individual success in the workplace. However, this thought can also be applied on a more macro level, and it accurately describes the way businesses must think and plan in order to grow and succeed.
Strategic planning is one of the most important things a business can do in order to improve its operations, profits and morale; yet so many business owners are hesitant to do it. Some common objections are: things are fine the way they are, it takes too much time, and it sounds nice but in the end nothing ever comes out of it because no one follows through. All of these objections can be overcome by using a system of a few simple steps that we have found to be successful every time we go through it.
Strategic planning doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process which produces a lengthy, uninspiring document that no one ever looks at again. The point of strategic planning is to come up with a few objectives per department, division, or segment of the company that can be achieved in a reasonable timeframe. This can be accomplished in 1 – 2 days in most cases. This process can be done onsite or offsite and can be done with or without the help of an external facilitator. And although you need to keep the number of people involved to a manageable size, generally the more employees you can involve, the better the end result will be.
The first step is to get feedback from the participants on their view of the dangers and opportunities the company faces as well as what they perceive to be the company’s strengths. These results are then compiled and discussed, and the top few from each category are chosen as the items on which to focus. There are also several critical thinking exercises that participants can do in order to in order to facilitate big picture thinking. From these exercises and discussions, strategic goals and objectives will naturally emerge.
The next step is to record these goals and objectives in a brief document, typically only one page in length. These objectives, along with the measurements by which you will track their progress, strategies and initiatives to achieve these objectives, due dates, and assignments to specific people or groups, will become the strategic plan for the next year. Once complete, the plan should be communicated to the entire company so that all employees can share in the goals of management and feel as if there is a common vision that unites them.
The final, and most crucial step, is to hold the participants accountable for their assigned tasks by meeting regularly after the initial meetings to ensure that progress is being made and that these very important objectives do not get lost in the shuffle. The participants need to be empowered, and they need to have support and resources available to complete their objectives. If they know what they are doing is valuable to the company and is taken seriously, they will be motivated to succeed and will help to encourage other team members to do the same.
Strategic planning involves much more than just developing budgets and setting sales quotas. It means thinking critically about where your company is now, where you want it to be in the future and how to get there. It requires planning, commitment and follow through, but the end result is a company with defined goals and motivated employees who will help achieve those goals.
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This article was previously published in the Tri-State Business Times.