All companies, from the single trader up to the multinational organisation need a strategic plan to drive the future of their business.
Whether the goal is to increase footfall across the entrance to your retail premise or to develop the next wonder drug or mousetrap, you need to sit down and think of what are the critical strategies needed to achieve this.
Most small organisations do this inherently as they struggle to survive or grow – most owner operators have a single vision that allows them to tirelessly drive forward the business. As you get larger, the vision at the top can still be there but it becomes less clear as you go down the organization. Everyone has a stake in the future of any business, so it follows that they should have an input in to achieving its success. This is easily done and can be very powerful, but it requires some work and trust.
A simple test is to walk into your work area, whatever that is, and ask any employee “what tasks are you involved in this month that are part of an element of the strategic plan?” Most will look at you as if you have just asked them how to split an atom and, depending on your IR relationship, they may even view this as a trick question.
How many organisations have taken their senior team away for 2 to 3 days in a (insert suitable adjective – nice, plush, overseas, etc) hotel to develop the ”Strategic Plan”? How many have then come back and delivered said plan with much hooting of horns and flag waving? How many then get on with the day to day running of the business and forgot about the plan? How many of the staff shrug it off saying it’s the latest plan and it will fade away over time? Sound familiar? Unfortunately the percentage answering positively is likely to be the same to all of the questions above.
In time, some of what is in the plan is partly achieved by virtue of the fact that it influences our decision-making process. But the benefits that could have been accrued are nowhere near their potential and not at all timely. The development of the plan is not the problem, every organization needs one. It’s what you do with it once you have created it. How do you make it real to everyone no matter what their position in the organization is? How can they contribute to its success in a real and practical way every day they come to work?
A favorite quote of management gurus is that “every problem is an opportunity”. The reverse can also be true, that is “every opportunity (strategy goal) is a problem”. Many have spent enormous amounts of time and money developing problem solving techniques at all levels for their businesses. Now let’s use these skills to drive our businesses forward. Let’s create problems to solve.
Look at a strategic goal of say, “Increase sales by 50% in 5 years”. Turn it around and create a problem, “Sales are currently at 66% of target”. Now use the problem solving skills to solve this problem and drive it down to all levels. At each level break it down into smaller actions until you end up with a series of tasks that need to be completed to achieve the strategic goal.
Now here’s the hard bit – involve everyone in the deciding of what needs to be completed and make them responsible for completing the work. Now they know what the plan is and what they are doing to achieve it.
Well it’s not too hard if you think about it – its common sense. Yet why do so many organisations fall down on this one aspect? Why is it so hard for us to involve all levels of an organization in its future? Within any organization you need different skillsets to complement each other to achieve success but who is to say that only the top management in an organization can deliver on the strategy needed.
By way of example, a group of Harvard researchers were given unparalleled access to over 20 companies that had failed in an effort to come up with what are the common denominators for the failures. What they found was that there was no common denominator – each company failed for their own specific reason. However, what they did find out was that there was a common thread in the fact that less than 10% of the top management knew the reason the company was about to fail whereas over 80% of those on the ground floor of the company knew exactly why it would fail. What’s more is that they could have told management had they been asked!
I know hindsight is 20:20 but ..................
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