Sustaining a business or organization is about vision. You would probably concur that big picture thinking, bold missions, and mammoth goals and objectives certainly have the “wow” factor. Yet companies can easily falter when everyday challenges and distractions (stiff competition, finding the right talent, producing the best service, and creating the right messages to name a few) begin to arise.
If not careful a company can find itself overwhelmed and taken off course, finding itself in the middle of “nowhere” without a viable roadmap.
So how does a company get itself back on track to ensure that the vision and the mission are clear, focused and that daily activities are conducive to the overall strategy?
The easiest and most fundamental approach is to develop a strategic plan. However many companies shy away from this option with excuses ranging from “we don’t have the time” to “we can’t afford it”. Yet countless time and energy, in addition to money are expended on methods and madness that are not viable for the company leaving “Martha in Marketing” and “Cynthia in Customer Service” with two completely different ideas about where the firm is heading. Strategic planning, when done correctly, is a beneficial process that allows the company to come together around a shared vision and get teams working together on specific objectives backed by concrete action plans.
Not only does strategic planning get the company refocused and clear about its present and future objectives, but it’s a great opportunity to engage internal stakeholders and involve them in the strategic thinking process. So while Martha’s ultimate responsibility may be the best message for the upcoming product launch, Cynthia now has a stronger connection to the product and the buyer’s concerns on the other side of that computer screen.
Clear direction is the simplest way to overcome upheaval and the best way to remain steady. While this may seem easier said than done, it is possible. Executive managers that embrace the idea of the strategic plan find that the value it offers to the company in the long term far exceeds any short-term disadvantages.
When faced with difficulty, the business with a focused strategy and a plan of action that is concrete, yet flexible, is less likely to waver.
Putting these 5 strategic planning guidelines in place will help ensure that your company is not hindered by daily chaos.
1. Clarify the Vision – The clearest way to get to the future is to know what the future looks like and then determine the best “right now” steps for moving forward. When company’s can clearly articulate their future vision to employees, board members and the like, it makes it easier to stay on path and to stay the course. But defining the vision can be a bit tricky, especially in a trying economic climate where it may be difficult to really define how the future will look based on the current status of the company. However companies that take the time to really determine where they want to go in the long haul reap great benefits. A vision statement does not have to be complicated or complex, but they are very helpful in keeping you centered. The really cool thing about a vision is that it can be big, bold, and simple. Take a look at a few from some well-respected top companies:
Google: Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Wow, with a vision like that you can see why Google is the company it is today and how they keep themselves focused.
2. Work Your Way Down – How long do you think it’ll take Google to organize the world’s information? If you’re an avid user like myself and many others, you’re probably thinking they’ve come pretty darn close. But since we all know there are glitches and room for improvement we can see how this vision will keep the Google team busy for a really long time. That’s what’s so exciting about a vision and why you need one that is clear and succinct. The truth is you can’t work your way up until you work your way down. Once you have a clear vision, you can then begin asking the question of “How”. How do we organize the world’s information? What resources do we need — people, finances, partners, etc.? Where do we start? Who can help us?
3. Put the Action Plans in Place – Once you’ve answers the questions of who, what, where and how, you can begin setting mid and short term goals that will keep you focused on your vision. What do you want to accomplish over the next 2 to 3 years? What can be accomplished in the next year? What will be the focus over the next 3 months? The action plan allows you to establish your goals and then break them down into actionable steps and timeframes that move you forward, one month, week and day at a time. The action plan is your “right now“ tool while the vision helps you understand everyday where you’re headed, e.g. where all the hard work, sweat and tears are taking you. When you can see the vision on the wall, literally, it’s easier to take the bad days, eliminate the distractions, overlook the failures, and continue moving forward.
4. Make the Commitment – Will you commit? Success unfortunately doesn’t come wrapped up in a pretty jar. It has to be defined and then attacked on a regular basis. What will I do to make my vision a reality? How much do I really want it? Will I allow the everyday nuances of life and work to overwhelm me? or will I commit myself to the task at hand and maintain the true leader I am, for which others can follow? Commitment for many is a scary word. It signifies promise and obligation and it’s not to be taken lightly. When you look at the most successful companies and individuals around you, remember there is always a back story, filled with both failure, triumph and commitment.
5. Stay Accountable – Commitment lends itself to accountability. Making a commitment and being accountable go hand and hand. Accountability can viewed from two angles, accountability to self and accountability to others. Did you do what you said you would do? Ask yourself this question everyday and prompt your team to do so as well. It’s a powerful and simple question that will reap enormous benefits across the board. Staying accountable to the vision you see and the plans you’ve created is a critical step to a comprehensive process.
At the end of the day, it’s easy for organizations, businesses, staff and teams to get sidetracked, distracted and taken off course, but the good news is there is a bonafide way back and its by way of the strategic plan.
Sheronde Glover is a high-energy focused professional with over 15 years of diverse experience working with business owners, organizations, individuals, and communities in the areas of research, goal development, strategic planning, marketing and implementation strategies. As an experienced consultant and seasoned trainer with a keen ability to conceptualize, plan, and implement, Sheronde facilitates strategic planning sessions and workshops that build team and community commitment and provides technical assistance to support strategy implementation. Sheronde has a Master’s degree in Education and a BA degree in Psychology.