Be Proactive, Not Reactive, with the Right Strategic Plan

Every new year is ripe with potential as we look forward to what we can accomplish in the months ahead. The chaos that has characterized the last couple of years has taught us that uncertainty won’t ever go away; tidy predictability is not part of our world, nor will it ever be, despite the relief we feel at once again being able to meet in person, shake hands, and conduct business in more familiar ways.

We know that holding on to the status quo or preventing change is not possible. We do, however, have an effective response. We can prepare for the future with a strategic plan. Planning puts your organization in a proactive position–anticipating, and preparing for, what could be ahead. Predictions, like those from Michael Weidokal article, may offer a sense of what could be in store, but a strategic plan provides the structure to guide your organization’s response to events that come along so you can keep moving forward.

While strategic planning can be done as a regular activity of business for an in-house team, sometimes organizations need a helping hand. The process often requires tough conversations and honest answers that could be divisive. A skilled business consultant can help you navigate the process, bringing neutrality to discussions and ensuring both full participation and accountability from key stakeholders.

Before you can move ahead, you have to know where you are. The process begins by assessing your organization to find what’s working and what’s not. Take stock of the health of the relationships that drive your organization; make sure any communications or functional problems are addressed before embarking on further plans.

On your own or with a business consultant, a classic SWOT analysis will help identify the strengths and weaknesses within your organization and the opportunities and threats that affect it. Clear, honest, and objective thinking is involved here as you truly assess your strengths. Identify where you may be throwing resources at a weakness instead of using them to enhance a strength. Remember that opportunities may require hard work and what may appear to be easy wins could prove to be nothing more than a tempting distraction from your core purpose.

As your strategic plan takes shape, be sure that your team has a clear understanding of the difference between a strategy and a wishful list of ambitions. Richard Rumelt article, professor emeritus at UCLA Anderson School of Management, points out that too often a list of aspirations masquerades as a strategy. He recommends isolating the main challenge your organization faces and focusing on this one item as the basis of strategy. Rumelt says, “Strategy is problem-solving. It is how you overcome the obstacles that stand between where you are and what you want to achieve.”

With strategy clarified, actions and goals defined, your strategic plan becomes a roadmap for your future. The plan doesn’t end there, residing in a binder on a shelf, where it gathers dust. It must be implemented then reviewed on a consistent basis.

For a strategic plan to be effective alignment is necessary; as a recent Gallup article points out, “executives must align around a shared understanding of purpose.” Similarly, Rumelt, in his article, “Getting Strategy Wrong–and How to Do It Right Instead,” connects alignment with the need for focus as the most crucial element of strategy. Concentration is not scattered energy, splintered by different agendas. Instead, it is “the coordinated application of resources and effort to an important yet addressable challenge.” Effective coordination that focuses power on the right target to bring results begins with leadership that is aligned.

Whether you seek the assistance of an experienced consultant or work your way through the planning steps on your own, your organization will reap the benefits of improved efficiency from aligned leadership and a structure that will help to guide you through challenging times.

Where are you on this journey? As a business consultant experienced in strategic planning, facilitation and executive coaching, I help organizations move forward effectively. Are you ready to move forward with confidence? Let’s talk. Click here and let’s get the conversation started.

Nancy Owsianowski is the Founder of RoundTable Consulting where her relational, insightful approach transforms teams, leaders, and organizations.