December 20, 2012 – Like many aspects of good management practice, drafting a sound strategy is not especially difficult. Corporate strategy is not rocket science. There are certain steps considered “best practices” in strategic planning, developed and refined over decades of experience backed by business research. Good strategic planning is a pretty well-worn path. But getting to the end isn’t easy.
A sound strategic plan begins with a vision. This is the kind of big picture thinking that many of us never take time to consider. Why are you in business (yes, we know you want to make money, but why this business)? What do you hope to achieve? Where do you (and your colleagues) want to be in 3, 5, or 10 years?
A mission statement comes next – how do you see that “vision thing” coming to life in the real world? Are you solving a problem? Bringing a particular solution or benefit to your customers? What do you offer to your other stakeholders such as employees, suppliers or investors? There are hundreds of examples, but here is a particularly good mission statement:
"The USO lifts the spirits of America's troops and their families."
A vision without some concrete goals is just a dream. And a goal without a timetable, and an identified person responsible, is nothing more than a wish list. We all wish for a lot of things for the New Year, but how many of them do we commit to a 12 month calendar? To lose those extra pounds, what are we going to do in June, or July, or next fall? Outline your specific goals – no more than 5 or 10, with a timetable and “chief goal executive” responsible for making each one happen. Under each goal can be a number of detailed tasks fitting the size of your organization and its resources.
Your board of directors or board of advisors should be closely involved with your vision setting. And if you don’t have directors, advisors or at least a kitchen cabinet (of informal advisors), you need to recruit some. Solicit their ideas on your mission and goals, and then circulate a written rough outline back to them. You do not need consensus, and you don’t have to take a vote. But, if you expect these advisors to work with you to achieve your goals they deserve to be involved in the planning.
Draw an organizational link from each of your goals up to your directors and advisors, and down to your colleagues and staff. Who is on the team for each goal? What is their primary role? Who provides support, and who provides feedback? This is sometimes called a “crosswalk” of authority and responsibility for each of your stated goals.
Finally, every organization should have at least one “BHAG” – a Big Hairy Audacious Goal for the coming year. This is a stretch goal that requires your team to think bigger and act more boldly than the routine. It should be just barely out of reach – not so big as to be silly and thus dismissed by the team. You may not achieve your stretch goal, but the effort will improve both your organization and the individuals on your team.
Here’s a good New Year’s resolution: Resolve to complete a written strategic plan early this year. You might even achieve something audacious.
Founding Partner & CEO
J Street Consulting, LLC