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Visit local bookstores or check on line to see hundreds of books claiming to have the secrets to a successful business and easy strategic planning. Technology and the Internet has forced companies to make changes. Has the ability to get along with and manage others changed? Many businesses today are international. Constant news reports keep everyone updated on issues affecting the business world. The skills needed to effectively manage others have not changed that much. Rather employees today are not as willing to put up with poor leadership or bullies in the manager’s office, anymore. Employees have more choices and they expect leaders to be authentic.
Years ago this was called long-range planning. Decisions then were made by upper management behind closed doors. Today strategic planning is likely to involve individuals from all levels of management and staff. Companies are learning the best way to achieve excellent plans and full company support is to involve individuals from all levels of the business.
Strategic leadership usually involves planning. Companies do not achieve their goals accidentally or by luck but rather by setting goals. Companies use different methods for strategic planning. They are based on the type of business, the mission statement or the marketing strategy. Basically the steps are the same with each model, some models are more complex and detailed. Small business owners and companies alike should adapt strategic planning to fit their situation. It’s helpful to review how other leaders determine business strategies. It’s critical to know leadership of a company is not one size fits all.
Thinking about where a company is going leads to discussions on what they do their product or service. Without this knowledge strategic planning will not work. Sometimes companies write their mission statements during this stage of planning. Mission statements range from one simple sentence to numerous detailed paragraphs. Regardless of length the intent is to state the core purpose of the corporation what’s at the heart of the business. Companies then elaborate on their mission statements by adding vision and value statements.
Value statements usually deal with customer type, target markets, business activities or things they will not do. Moral values and public sentiment sometimes play a role. Companies that misjudge this often lose customers and market position. Vision and value statements, just like mission statements, are unique to the business. S. Truett Cathy, the owner of Chick-fil-A, is a good example. They will never open their restaurants on Sunday. This planning stage is sometimes referred to as strategic analysis.
Howard Behar, author of “It’s not about the Coffee/Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks” defines his leadership philosophy as people are more important than the coffee. He believes when companies take care of their people employees and customers the business is profitable. Sometimes companies struggle to define their product. In the above situation many individuals define coffee as the product. Yet their strategic leaders define it as people. It helps to go beyond the physical product to see what need the product fills. Companies can’t engage in strategic planning until there is clarity and agreement on what needs the company fulfills.
When determining the purpose of a company it is critical to analyze the environment they operate in. What’s the competition? What are they doing to generate sales? What future trends might affect the business? If they market to a certain segment do they need to change or update their services? Are they using the most up to date technology available? How does the Internet apply to their business? Should they shift from a local to an international focus? Questions such as these help strategic leaders decide what major issues the company faces as well as potential opportunities available.
Once a company completes strategic analysis it’s time to add the details. What actions are needed to fulfill their mission statement while balancing their values and vision? At this point the process becomes very detailed and specific. Usually there are multiple goals or objectives. It’s helpful to divide these by product, task, location, customer, or some way unique to the business. Each of the divisions has a different manager with different tasks/goals specific to that aspect of the business. It’s not enough to say the company wants to increase business. It’s better to be very specific. How does the company want to increase their business? How do they plan to do this? Add dates, amounts and numbers.
The company has determined their mission and what’s needed for this to happen. At this point the strategic leader usually releases details to the employees. The managers of each division usually report back to their managers with a trickling down effect. Team leads/managers explain the strategic plans during team meetings. Sometimes this announcement is kicked off with much promotion – lots of bells and whistles. Employees sometimes walk away thinking it’s just another year. Strategic plans do not affect me. Employee acceptance of mission and vision statements is largely determined by their involvement in the planning process and their attitude toward management.
Employees can struggle with the goals attached to mission/vision statements. To insure companies meet their goals, strategic planners include responsibilities, timelines and accountability in the mission statement. Sometimes this involves change which employees do not always embrace. If negative consequences result from unmet goals, employees usually have negative attitudes. Management doesn’t always recognize the feelings or issues of their employees. It’s essential that all employees understand what’s expected of them. Take time to answer their questions. Encourage teamwork. Listen.
Everybody likes money especially in their paycheck. If a company is doing well financially, and the new strategic plan does not include cutbacks, this is good news. But on the other hand, if money is tight, and the employees will not receive money as expected, this is bad news. Usually employees think of themselves first. When presenting a new mission statement to employees they typically think what’s in it for me. If the company needs to cut corners or eliminate positions, this causes stress for everyone involved. Part of strategic planning includes how to deliver strategic plans to the staff. A good leader makes sure this is done in a positive way with consideration for the feelings of everyone involved.
Strategic planning isn’t just for corporations. Small businesses, even a sole proprietor, benefit from making strategic plans on an annual basis. Usually the small business owner starts a company because they are good at one thing, but many times they don’t have the skills needed to develop a successful company. They provide a product or service but don’t know how to analyze the market, set goals, promote their business, or manage money. Writing a mission statement – determining where the company is going and how to get there – puts the business owner closer to the road of success.
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