March 30, 2011

Now if your thinking, ‘in this economy I can ONLY see one week ahead, maybe a month at most, so what good is strategic planning?’ Well you STILL have a strategic plan, you are STILL following some framework you have established for your business, some agreed approach you are having your team follow. For example you are building ONLY certain types of home plans in a certain price range. Why that price range, why that home plan range? Because that is the strategy you have decided upon. So you DO have one!  But the question is are you communicating it to your whole team? That includes employees and your trade partners. Are you setting goals, measuring and monioring how you are rolling out your plans?

Strategic planning has some basics such as SWOT or assessing your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Where are your threats i.e. competition, what are they doing, where are your opportunities and how can you leverage them?

Once you have evaluated your competitive market creating your plan is the next step is putting your plan together.

  • Focus on what your minimum financial needs are, i.e. what is the minimum revenue you need, what is your ideal revenue that is maximum comfortable amount of work based on your resources, number of employees etc. Finally what is your stretch goal, what would challenge your resources but is achievable if you pulled out all the stops. You can then select which you want to go for.
  • Break this down in to quarterly timelines.
  • DEFINE WHAT will you need to do to achieve this plan to execute it!
  • Don’t just have a goal with nothing to define HOW to make it happen!
  • Have you assigned who is responsible for key aspects of the strategic plan!
  • Have milestone metrics been assigned?
  • Have quarterly strategic meetings to ensure you are on track, if not what do you need to do to tweak!

Also put alternative 'lighter' plans together that can be your other scenario plans or fall back plans.  As Crosby said ‘don’t write a phone book’ but have outline plans for what do to if you bring in more work than you planned and importantly if you don’t, i.e. you hit minimum or worse don’t make minimum. What would you do? Having these outline plans (or scenarios) means that if thing change you will not be staring at a blank sheet of paper but will have some initial steps to take. Also by having those quarterly meetings you become as proactive as you can be rather than reactive.

Your strategic plan then should follow PDCA or Plan Do Check Act.

So why do so many strategic plans fail?

  • Lack of follow through on execution
  • Not having a well-developed plan
  • Unrealistic goals
  • Not having the resources/capacity to deliver
  • Goals are too broad, not specific enough
  • Not bold enough
  • Not having everyone onboard and focusing on the goal
  • Lack of commitment by key VPs or Managers
  • Not providing rewards or recognition

Consider each of these barriers and create how to counter  them to ensure you can follow through on YOUR strategic plan!

Here are some other things to consider in your strategic planning:

  1. What lessons are there to learn from the execution of your strategy in the last year? What worked and didn’t?
  2. Insist on realism
  3. Monitor progress and ensure you follow through

In the Jim Collins book ‘How the Mighty Fall’ he cites Five Stages of organizational Decline.

  1. Hubris Born of Success
  2. Undisciplined Pursuit of More
  3. Denial of Risk and Peril
  4. Grasping for Salvation
  5. Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death

Stages 1-4 are indicators you should be looking out for and avoiding in your strategic reviews and focusing on Recovery and Renewal. Where does your organization stand right now?

Finally, this is a useful website with templates etc that may be of assistance.

NEXT TIME, Tunnel Vision 

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 home building 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.