Most businesses are born with an idea, a lot of drive, and endless hours of hard work. More often than not, business owners allow their business to drive them, rather than the reverse. We get so busy doing the do, that we forget to plan and execute. Statistically, less than 10% of organizations have a current strategic plan. Those that do are more successful than those that do not. It is also true that of those organizations that have an active plan, less than 10% of those are actively executing their plan. Once again, those that are executing are far more successful than those who are not. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who’s in the top 1%!
There are literally hundreds of models for a strategic plan, and probably millions of hours of research into what makes a good one. Most of these strategic plan models have some common elements, which serve as the basics for good strategic planning principles. At Smart People Inc., our facilitators have used dozens of models over our long history of building strategic plans, and we’ve found the elements of each model that are effective for our clients, enabling us to get our execution rate from the average of less than 10%, to over 90%. We’ve learned that a good strategic plan not only includes the critical elements, but also must leave out the excess, unnecessary components, and also must work well with how human beings think and interact. While we continue to try some new things in our process, we feel that we’ve found the “secret sauce” to building a phenomenal strategic plan!
A strategic plan should contain a set of simple, focused statements around mission, vision and values. These elements serve as emotional and directional anchors to keep the plan rooted correctly, and pointed in the right direction. A good plan will also have a higher-level goal or goals, each supported by a series of smaller, bite-sized actions. Whether you call these objectives, targets, strategies, actions, or chupacabras is irrelevant. What counts is that the principle of cascading is in effect, where a larger goal is supported by three to five action items that are directed to accomplish the larger goal. Cascading can happen as far down the waterfall as is practical, stopping somewhere between “Double the Sales” and “Ensure paper clips are available 100% of the time”. And, of course, execution is the entire reason to have a strategic plan, so a fixed schedule for reviews and updates seals the deal.