Creating a well thought-out, focused and thorough strategic plan is critical to the enduring success of any enterprise.  A strategic plan provides the big picture framework for a company, against which it can then execute in confidence.  The strategic plan should answer the big picture questions for the company concerning mega trends, market opportunity, unique core competences, business models and shareholder value creation.  

I strongly favour a simplified strategic plan which addresses these questions first, to be complemented by a more detailed business plan focused on execution and action.  The key element of a strategic plan is to answer the questions of why the company exists, where market value exists, and how it will create value for customers, shareholders and employees. These factors must be looked at from an external and different perspective, so the business leader does not complete a strategic plan to fit the existing business, rather transforms the business towards new and compelling opportunities.  Its focus must be market pull, not product or service push.  A external perspective is key to completing a compelling strategic plan, which is why I recommend the use of trusted advisors.  This external perspective will ensure the business leader does not depend purely on past and self-centered views that may not be consistent with significant and emerging business opportunities.  

Finally, other external critics should be consulted as well, especially those whose opinions are based on sound judgement and business experience.  This should include board members, financiers, long term employees (not just managers), industry experts, key customers and suppliers, as examples.  Once the fundamental aspects of the strategic plan are agreed upon, they can form the basis of a sharp and pragmatic business plan, which will ensure the business objectives align with the strategic objectives, and the emphasis can then move to execution. 

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