What are your best practices in planning?

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If the objectives and strategies are wrong the actions and the outcomes will be wrong.

 

Planning is a creative process but with guidelines

There is no single ‘best practice’ for how to do successful strategic planning. It is very much a creative activity even though it might be driven by processes.

Each business’s strategic plan will be different and specific to the wants and needs of the business. Research has determined that those who follow ‘best practices’, have a greater probability of realising significant benefits in being able to achieve their aspirations.

Best practice strategic plans are not just about the actual document. Best practice strategic plans also deal with the process for developing the strategies.

Strategic planning is typically oriented to a particular business’s circumstances at a particular time in its history. However, there are a number of proven and effective best practices and methodologies that can be adapted for any business.

While bigger businesses may have a strategic plan, a business plan, and an operating plan, smaller business usually combines them into a single document.

A businesses approach to planning is more clearly defined against accepted best practices.

  • In order for your strategic planning to be effective, it needs to be treated as an important aspect of your business, not something you do when you have time.
  • A strategic plan should be a dynamic document that is subject to continuous improvement and refinement.
  • Personal and business values should be concurrent with the customers and employees of the
  • A handful of decisions largely drive most of the subsequent decisions and actions of the business and will have the greatest impact on whether the objectives will be achieved.
  • Using a facilitator that writes the strategic plan for you is not best practice. The facilitator should develop a process that engages staff and key stakeholders and document their decisions.
  • Your facilitator should not be writing the plan for you. You should not delegate responsibility for your strategy to a third-party if you want to achieve the optimal level of benefits from the strategic plan.
  • There is a big difference between developing the process and documenting the discussion and decisions that the group develops, and writing the strategy for the business.
  • It is well accepted that time spent planning is a sound investment in the business. It coordinates effort and resources, avoids costly mistakes while sharpening the whole business for the future.
  • Those who carry out the strategies should be involved in the process, with emphasis on creating the right conversations so everyone understands.
  • Stretch goals drive strategic out-of-the-box thinking. While different businesses use different parameters, all of the best practice businesses set targets that require a shift from business as usual.
  • To be able to shape your future, you have to be willing and able to change your current situation.
  • Your strategic plan should reference all projects and major events along with their likely impact on the business.
  • Having information available. If the implications of good information are not discussed or agreed on, then good action plans are not developed.
  • Planning processes should be evolving and flexible. A ‘continuous improvement’ philosophy should guide the planning process.
  • Emphasis must be placed on action plans based on the strategic thinking. Your business doesn’t have a remote control, you have to take the necessary actions to bring about changes.
  • Keep it simple, so people simply understand. Too many plans become too complex and therefore are left in the drawer and never implemented.
  • Don’t let readers get bogged down in details. A good plan is crisp, clear and supported with good quality photographs and diagrams. Supporting details can be recorded in a separate document.
  • Strategic plans require both words and numbers. If people want complex spreadsheets, they will ask for them.
  • Expect strategic thinking to take place primarily at the business operating level. It is also a good idea to involve customers and suppliers in the process.
  • Avoid a ‘laundry list’ of objectives and strategies. Every business wants to do more than it has the resources to accomplish.
  • One of the fundamental benefits of a strategy should be to reconcile the conflicts on what it wants to achieve and what it has the resources to achieve.
  • As the cycle time of strategic plans shortens, business and project planning is done within the context of a strong vision and culture.
  • The role of strategic planning as a key element in the management system. It should be explicitly recognised through strong links to other elements of the management system, such as systems, human resources and organisational frameworks and structures.
  • A single core competence or capability should not be the driver of strategic planning. Instead, the basis for competitive advantage and new business development should be based on diverse competencies, from a diverse team.
  • Approaches to planning processes vary greatly. However, the framework of issues, option generation, prioritisation, feedback, monitoring, and review continues to have universal relevance.
  • Documentation of strategic thinking is critical. Simple language that makes it easy to communicate.
  • Communication of the strategic plan is a significant element of the process and it is viewed as a measure of quality planning and best practice.
  • An issue with prioritising is that it generally means the first priority should be done before the second, the second before the third, and so forth. Unfortunately, this simplistic approach does not fit very well with the realities of the world.
  • Just one good idea can change your day, your business and your future, so put the time in to make your strategic plan a good one.

An important aspect, if not the most important aspect is to engage an external planning facilitator. They will introduce best practices and provide you with additional information, objectivity and perspective.  They will know the right processes to use at the right time and they will have experience in controlling difficult people in order to get the desired outcomes.

 

 

[read more=”Personal Experience” less=”Personal Experience”]

Personal Experience:

The timing and process will differ depending on the industry, market pressures and the size, culture and planning experience of the organisation. Many see the old style ‘Annual Strategic Planning Retreat’ as dead while others see it as an effective brainstorming and bonding session.

As a facilitator, I found it most frustration that when it came to implementation and opening the chequebook, some owners and managers suddenly became reluctant to spend the money they had agreed to spend. Often they would revert to the old ways as if no planning ever took place.

Which ever way you go about your business planning never forget to implement what everyone agreed to unless of course, you want to lose good people.

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