Part 7:Strategic Planning – The Meeting: Defining Strategy
By: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Services
The following is part nine of a nine-part series on strategic planning. This blog series includes identifying the need for strategic planning, setting a level playing field, defining the organization and its purpose, and selecting the initiatives, goals, and actions that will make the organization successful.
Once your organization’s mission, values, and “what do we do?” are set, we must switch our focus to creating a strategy and executing that strategy. Strategy is an interesting word that honestly can create confusion for employees, as well as management. It is important that the strategy arrived at includes buy-in from critical players throughout the organization. And, once agreed upon, the results must be fairly and contextually communicated across the organization.
Setting the strategy is the most critical aspect of the strategic planning process. To set the strategy for the organization, we need to do a couple things:
- First, we must understand who we are as an organization (see previous installments)
- Then, we need to think strategically about how we as an organization will be successful in the near-term, while not ignoring the long term (see more on this below).
The strategy setting process can still be very difficult. The question that we always come back to is, “What do we do better than anyone else in our current market, our soon-to-be market, or in the market we are currently creating for our new offering?” Here’s a hint: What are our competitive advantages and what do we see them as being in the near future? Meaning, what do we do better than our competitors, both those current and those who are considering joining our market. Once we have identified our competitive advantages, we can start to understand how we will be successful both in the near future and in years to come.
COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE AND ANALYSIS
We must focus on critical success factors such as leads generated, schedules completed, and key compliance initiatives that lead to the desired results. There is an article in the Harvard Business Review that addresses how the most successful teams bridge the strategy execution gaps. If we cannot define how we can be successful, we may not deserve to continue serving our customers or the marketplace because we may not offer anything unique or valuable. If that is true, the marketplace will tell us this soon by not increasing our revenue and maybe flatlining or decreasing our sales. If you find yourself battling with the inability to keep up with the ever-changing marketplace, we have frameworks to help identify what your competitive advantages are and how to cultivate those advantages to bring success for the long-term.
One of those frameworks includes listing everything you do as an organization and then identifying which and what items you do well. Once that is determined, we help you coalesce upon why you do those items well. This is a fun exercise that usually takes about one to two hours and really starts to show how your people think and how your people can begin to start thinking together. This is not group thinking, where everyone just agrees while anxiously watching the clock.
These frameworks also help us establish strategic pillars or anchors (the word depends on which source framework you are using). Once we have these pillars identified, typically three, we can then work on setting strategic initiatives beneath each of them, usually two to four items under each pillar. At the end of this phase, we should have no more than four pillars and, thus, no more than 12 strategic initiatives, which frankly is way too many for the first strategic planning phase.
Another framework available is a modified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) framework. This framework can be used to work through each strategic initiative that was determined in the prior framework in order to land on what might be best for us to pursue or further explore in your first strategic planning phase. We will help you run your team through various scenarios to hear from each of the key players as to why an idea might or might not work. KHA Management Consultants is there to provide facilitation for your team to work through their SWOT analysis.
The result of the combined frameworks above should be strategic pillars and two to three solidified strategic initiatives per pillar, with which the organization can march forward. For bonus points, a short-term goal can be set and used to tie the strategy together, including its pillars and initiatives. The framework is being built!
At KHA Management Consultants, we have experience working with organizations on Strategic Planning. We facilitate the process with the organization’s key constituents to ensure buy-in, ownership, and a new way of thinking about the organization and its stakeholders among all levels of employees. From a resource perspective, we primarily use our experience but also tap into the top-level resources such as those provided by Harvard Business Review and MentorPlus. Some of those materials, frameworks, and lessons have been used in writing this blog.
KHA Management Consultants, the consulting wing of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the strategic planning experts, and contact us at 972-221-2500.