Should small businesses carry out strategic planning

Strategic planning is for the big boys! Right? Wrong!

At its most fundamental, strategic planning is simply the process used to explore and then ‘create the future’ for an organisation by setting the direction of, and priorities for, activity. The organisation can then identify goals and milestones on the journey towards that future and then focus energy and resources on reaching those milestones and achieving those goals.

This need to explore and then create a future applies just as much to entrepreneurs and small businesses. You don’t have to use sophisticated tools or techniques – but you should take the time to think through what kind of organisation you have, who it is serving, what it is setting out to achieve and what success will look like.

Strategic Plan

A Strategic Plan is simply a document that arises out of the strategic planning process, used to communicate to key stakeholders the organisation’s mission, goals and the actions needed to achieve those goals together with the other critical elements uncovered and developed during the planning process.

How do we create a Strategic Plan?

There are various frameworks and tools that can help with the process of creating a strategic plan; what they do is to impose some structure and discipline onto the process and most work through a similar kind of cycle consisting of:

  1. Confirming the organisation’s mission and vision – what it sets out to do and what it will look like in the future if it is successful.
  2. Analysis and assessment – of the organisation and of the environment in which it operates
  3. Strategy formulation – at a high level, what are the critical success factors – what must the organisation do, and do well , to achieve its mission
  4. Establishing Measures – what must the organisation measure to know it is performing against those critical success factors, to know it is being successful… these are its key performance indicators
  5. Action planning – planning the activities, and the supporting processes and procedures, needed to move the measures in the right direction, to reach milestones, achieve goals and deliver the mission
  6. Sustaining – ongoing evaluation and refinement, communicating and reporting, rewarding and celebrating success.
Of course we could add in lots of elements of detail – such as ensuring staff have the right skills to deliver the required actions ... but this sequence of steps covers all of the main steps in a typical strategic planning process.

When done well, strategic planning;

  • Forces you look at – and even re-define – your business… and to look at – and take a pro-active stance towards – the future
  • Helps you focus on the key goals and objectives needed to achieve the mission – and to share those goals and objectives throughout the organisation
  • Ensures you and your team understand the resources necessary to undertake all of the actions contained within the plan
  • Provides a continuous sense of direction and focus for all staff
  • Involves everyone and ensures accountability for all key actions.
It is important to remember that strategic planning is not about creating the strategic plan – the document. Too many organisations do that – they work through the creation of mission, vision and strategic plan – then these go on the shelf in several offices and are forgotten about until something goes wrong. Strategic planning is a continuous, cyclic process. It must be a complete process – involving all of the stages referred to above – so that our measurement, for example, lets us know whether we are ‘on track’, moving in the right direction, at the right pace to achieve agreed goals.


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