On our travels around different clients, we come across quite a few different formats and versions of something called a “strategic plan”. Some are better than others as you can imagine, some are very readable, and some are packed with useful detailed information. They often look quite different from the plans we write though, so it got us asking, “What makes a good strategic plan?”
In thinking about what a strategic plan is for, we have to distinguish it from a “business plan”, which may be required by an outside party, for example to make a decision on a request for funding in the business (a bank, an external shareholder). A strategic plan on the other hand, is something that should be owned and used by the directors of the business to drive the business forward. Therefore the simplest measure of whether a strategic plan is successful, is whether it makes a difference, and in the right direction.
Now, we are not saying that there is no place for a SWOT analysis, a competitor survey or for lots of graphs showing trends of sales by segment or customer. In our experience however, these things can often be barriers to even starting a plan, the message they yield is often known by the owners of the business anyway, and they can detract from the main point which is to agree what actions the business will take to satisfy its strategic objectives.
What we have concluded therefore is that the main point of a strategic plan is to have a clear vision, a set of strategic goals, each with a number of strategic projects, and each of those with some clear actions attached. The usual pit fall here, is that one of these plans can be put together relatively quickly (a half day meeting with the senior team for example), but you can easily find that all the actions within it must be completed within the next month. You need to make sure someone in the meeting is ensuring that the discussion is a high-level perspective, looking out a year or two, rather than just documenting what is going on anyway.
The trick is therefore, to make sure that these plans are actually used on a frequent basis to drive actions, and direct resources. That’s a whole new subject in itself, so will be the subject of another blog post.
If you need to develop an effective strategic plan then we hope that the advice in this article is of use, however if you feel that you could benefit from additional business support in this area then please get in touch. Send an e-mail to contact_us@Wellmeadow.co.uk or phone a member of the team to see if we can help.
Wellmeadow Limited is a management consultancy in Shrewsbury, providing management consultancy to firms across Shropshire and the West Midlands. We provide a mix of non executive director support and interim management on a part time basis for a variety of organisations, but mainly privately owner-managed firms (especially family firms). If you would like to chat over a business challenge you are facing, then we would be happy to speak to you and give you some business advice on a no obligation basis. We understand that a decision to work with a firm like us will not be taken lightly, and may seem quite daunting. However, have a look at the about us page for some more information on who we are and how we work.