Strategic Planning! Why do I need to do that?

Why is strategic planning so important?  The straightforward reason is to ensure that all your organisation's resources are focussed on realising a common vision - that all of the component parts of the whole are working towards the same end.

There is no fixed methodology behind how to create strategic plans.  We have seen examples where organisations have started at the end and worked backwards and examples where they have started at the beginning and worked forwards!  But which is better? We would suggest that getting a clear understanding of your end vision is far and away the best place to start.

What is your end vision?  Your end vision is a new and improved way of running your whole organisation which delivers significant improvements, or even step change, to your key measures of success.

If that's what you're aiming for, you definitely need to understand what your key measures of success are!

True measures of success are those quantifiable factors by which you, and everyone else, will know how well you have realised your vision. Using the right ones will ensure that you can keep your finger accurately on the pulse of your business or organisation - using the wrong ones could mean that you lose direction, understanding and control.

Defining your key measures of success is critical to the successful creation of the strategic plan?  We find that the best place to start is by identifying who your main stakeholders are.  In other words, those people that you want to be pleased with the end vision. Typically this list will include customers, shareholders, suppliers, employees plus others more specific to your organisation.

Once identified, these stakeholders need to be prioritised as they will not all be of equal importance to you.  We have a great tool for simplifying the prioritisation of lists & groups.  This can be found at :

It's important to take time to understand the true importance of each stakeholder, as this will be crucial when you come to test your vision later in the process. The better focus you can get at every stage of developing your vision the stronger its definition.

The next step is to establish what will delight your stakeholders.  Asking them is always a good [but very often missed] way of doing this! Never forget to include yourself - always take time to stand back and identify what it is about the vision that would make you happy.  Ask your stakeholders to prioritise and quantify their measures of success - again getting more focus.

Now you know your key measures of success but how do you set about designing your end vision?

We find that it really helps to get as much expert opinion as possible regarding the possible alternative options which will deliver significant improvements in your key measures of success. We recommend using experts that exist within your current organisation as well as those that exist outside - tap them all for their knowledge. There is often a reluctance to open  up discussions with internal or external experts because of the fear that the options already in mind will be challenged or modified.  We would say don't be afraid!  If the initially preferred option is strong it will stand up to challenge.  If not, then this expert discussion will, more often than not, result in a stronger and more robust option [or series of options].

Knowledge areas that need to discussed are:

  • Organisation mission

  • Product and market scope

  • The basis for differentiation

  • Core competencies

  • Strategic assets

  • Core processes

  • Customer information and insight

  • Customer fulfilment/service interfaces

  • Pricing structures

  • Supplier interfaces

  • Partner interfaces

Obviously this is not a trivial exercise and should not be rushed or given only superficial attention.  The more rigour that is applied here, the more likely that the vision will succeed

With all this input gathered, someone has to create a straw-man design of the future vision. That someone has to be you or your trusted visionary.

How do you know your vision is robust?  Simply, you must test, test and test it again.

Explain the vision to the experts and ask them to pull it to pieces. Encourage criticism, search for the risks and avoid defensiveness. A robust vision will survive tough challenges. This phase is the most important and yet probably the most difficult to undertake. None of us find it easy to ask for and receive criticism of our 'baby'.

At the end of testing you must decide if the vision is indeed robust or not. If you are not convinced, then go back to the design stage and repeat the process all over again.

Once you have a robust vision - how do you make it a reality?

In order to realise your vision you must plot a route from the current position of your organisation to the new destination - and this poses a whole new set of questions:

  • Is the journey feasible?

  • How long will it take?

  • Do the benefits of realising the vision justify the risks of the journey?

  • Can you realise many of the benefits of the vision without incurring the larger risks of the journey?

  • How likely is it for someone else to realise the vision if you do not?

  • Would it be better to start afresh rather that trying to change the current organisation?

These are difficult questions to answer. However, answer them you must, in order to decide the actual destination you are going to aim for.

With the destination agreed, you now need to create the detailed plan for the journey. This can be achieved, again by using your experts, this time including experienced change facilitators such as those from the advocus team.

We find that planning workshops are an excellent means of combining the knowledge of your internal and external experts to produce credible plans with high levels of internal and external buy in.  If you'd like to find out more about our planning workshop methodologies why not give us a call.

At this point you should have created your strategic plan with a whole raft of associated actions and timelines - all you need now is to do the hard part and implement it!  Good luck.