Developing a Strategic Plan

Having a philosophical framework in place is a good start, but you also need a detailed plan for moving forward. The plan will include the most important business drivers for your organization, how you intend to measure and improve them, along with the needed strategies and tactics. For non-leaders, the plan will constitute a personal map for improvement.

Start by identifying the key drivers for your organization. These are things that, if done well, will propel your business toward the vision. Customer satisfaction is a key driver for most businesses, as is profitability. Others may include things like quality improvement and improving cycle time. Develop a handful of key drivers. If the list is too long, it will confuse rather than focus. I will use an example of a typical key driver, "improving profitability," to demonstrate the process of creating a strategic plan.

Identify how you will measure progress in each of the key driver areas. Measuring things is crucial for forward momentum. The old adage, "what gets measured, gets done," is literally true. Strive to identify 2-3 ways to measure each key driver area from differing angles. The measure provides a focus for energy and also data on which successes can be noted and reinforced. Possible measures for our current example might be "manufacturing margin" (revenue minus cost of goods sold) and "return on investment" (revenue divided by total investments.) These can be plotted against short-term and long-term goals to identify progress and celebrate it when appropriate.

Now identify improvement opportunities. These will be ways to make each measure move in the desired direction. For this example, you might identify a productivity improvement program in manufacturing or a new advertising campaign to increase sales. Each measure should have a few improvement opportunities that will drive progress.

You are now in a position to document strategies required to accomplish these improvements and to identify specific tactics. In our example, you might identify a strategy to engage in a Lean Manufacturing program to improve margins. The next step would be to identify associated tactics, such as hiring a consultant, training all employees in lean concepts, instituting a new reward system based on implementation of lean principles, etc. You may have several strategies and dozens of tactics for each key driver. Finally, you make the commitment and begin executing your plan.

Assess the relative priorities of the tactics so there is a cohesive plan consistent with the vision in the event of resource constraints. A plan that is well documented, internalized, supported, and communicated will drive the business rapidly toward the vision. It also lets people know what to do and, more importantly, what not to do. It provides a roadmap for focused effort.


Robert Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Incorporated, an organization dedicated to development of leaders. He has spoken on leadership topics and the development of trust in numerous venues across the country. He is author of three leadership books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for ProfessionalsUnderstanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  His ability to communicate pragmatic approach...

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