Building a strategic plan for growth

May 30, 2014

Perhaps two of the most famous quotes related to strategic planning are:

‘In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.’ Dwight D. Eisenhower


‘No strategy survives first contact with the enemy.’  Moltke the Elder.

In other words planning is essential!  It is not the strategic planning document itself but the thought, analysis and array of options that have been established during the planning process.  The document articulates the range of scenarios that may play out and how to best deal with each of them.

Without the thought, the planning, everything is seat of the pants and risky. The plan itself allows a fast reaction to each change that happens using the best options available. No time is wasted wondering what to do it has already been thought through.

That is why research shows that those with written business plans do better than those without.

Of course, that is not to say that one should become bogged down in creating huge unwieldy planning documents.  It’s about balance.  As Philip Crosby said  ‘sometimes we spend so much time in the locker room preparing for the game, that by the time we get on the field the game is over.’

It important that the objectives of the plan are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time based (SMART).   They should also have assigned who is responsible for leading the achievement of the objective as well as detailing HOW to achieve the objective.  That is the real detail of the plan. There is a real danger of setting a goal for example a dollar number of contracts to be achieved both as a goal and then a stretch goal. But when you have to justify HOW each of those dollars are to be achieved i.e. X clients each estimate Y in next year equals how much work THAT makes sense. If not then it’s just wishful thinking, that’s not planning!

Opportunities for strategic growth are mainly through expanding out into new geographical locations and a key way to do this is to ‘follow’ a client to a new project outside your normal market area. Other sources for finding opportunities include creating alliances and collaboration this can create innovation in both product and construction methods and expanding the range of services you provide.

Other sources of finding growth opportunities can come from monitoring your competitors and benchmarking best practices, therefore, seeking new niches, new applications of your product/services and stretching your abilities.

Customer satisfaction, low levels of defects and rework are also key for strategic growth, ones reputation is key to retaining current and gaining new clients. Aligned with this is the use of process improvement both for the construction process itself and the service support you provide.

Finally, some important issues to consider with leading strategic growth:

Creating a vision and communicating how the strategy will achieve that vision.

Detailing the barriers and pitfalls and how each are to be overcome.

Understanding your current capacity and what expansion will you need in regard to labor, knowledge, management/supervisors, skills, certifications, trucks etc.



Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the homebuilding industry as well as construction engineer, site manager and in training, auditing and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental and safety management awards for clients.

Denis is co-author of The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence.