Strategic Planning: Where Are We Going? How Will We Get There? - dummies

Strategic Planning: Where Are We Going? How Will We Get There?

By Erica Olsen

When developing your company’s strategic plan, the elements of the question “Where are we going?” help you answer other questions, such as these: What will my organization look like in the future? Where are we headed? What is the future I want to create for my company?

Because the future is hard to predict, you can have fun imagining what it may look like. The following elements help you define the future for your business:

  • Sustainable competitive advantage: Sustainable competitive advantage explains what you’re best at compared to your competitors. Each company strives to create an advantage that continues to be competitive over time. What can you be best at? What makes you unique? What can your organization potentially do better than any other organization?

  • Vision statement: Your vision is formulating a picture of what your organization’s future makeup will be and where the organization is headed. What will your organization look like 5 to 10 years from now?

Knowing how you’ll reach your vision is the meat of your strategic plan, but it’s also the most time-consuming. The reason your vision takes so much time to develop is because you have a number of routes from your current position to your vision. Picking the right one determines how quickly or slowly you get to your final destination.

The parts of your plan that lay out your road map are as follows:

  • Long-term strategic objectives: Strategic objectives are long-term, continuous strategic areas that help you connect your mission to your vision. Holistic objectives encompass four areas: financial, customer, operational, and people. What are the key activities that you need to perform in order to achieve your vision?

  • Strategy: Strategy establishes a way to match your organization’s strengths with market opportunities so your organization comes to mind when your customer has a need. This section explains how you travel to your final destination. Does your strategy match your strengths in a way that provides value to your customers? Does it build an organizational reputation and recognizable industry position?

  • Short-term goals/priorities/initiatives: Short-term goals convert your strategic objectives into specific performance targets. You can use goals, priorities, or initiatives interchangeably. Effective goals clearly state what you want to accomplish, when you want to accomplish it, how you’re going to do it, and who’s going to be responsible.

    Each goal should be specific and measurable. What are the one- to three-year goals you’re trying to achieve to reach your vision? What are your specific, measurable, and realistic targets of accomplishment?

  • Action items: Action items are plans that set specific actions that lead to implementing your goals. They include start and end dates and appointing a person responsible. Are your action items comprehensive enough to achieve your goals?

  • Execution: In executing the plan, identify issues that surround who manages and monitors the plan and how the plan is communicated and supported. How committed are you to implementing the plan to move your organization forward? Will you commit money, resources, and time to support the plan?