Have you taken any roadtrips lately? Think about how you prepared for the few hours you were about to spend in the car. Chances are you probably got out your smartphone or GPS. You plugged in your starting point and plugged in your destination. And voila! You had the best and most direct route of how to get to your destination.
Creating a strategic plan for your business is just like taking a roadtrip. As a business leader, you must first ask yourself three questions:
- Where are you now?
- Where do you want to be?
- How do you get there?
The tricky part lies in the third question. Unfortunately, there is no “Siri” to tell you exactly how to get from point A to point B in a business plan.
This is why strategic planning is imperative to your business. You may have an idea of where you want to go, but without a roadmap, you are likely to veer off course or get lost. Although some detours can be fun and you may discover new things, detours are costly (think about all the gas you’ve wasted) and add hours onto your trip. The last thing you want for your business is to spend more money and time on something that could have been more effective had you developed a strategic plan.
Many companies invest a significant amount of time and effort in a formal, annual strategic planning process. The main purpose of the discussions is to challenge your current strategy by testing assumptions about the market, ensuring that all strategic choices are being considered, exploring potential opportunities and risks and conducting an honest assessment of your business’s strengths and weaknesses.
There are 3 key details of annual planning meetings that should be addressed in order to facilitate a productive planning process:
- Know who should attend the meeting
Real conversations take place in groups of three to 10 people; they simply do not happen in large groups for both logistical and political reasons. First, when a large group comes together for a discussion, you run the risk of developing “groupthink.” Coined in 1972 by social psychologist Irving Janis, groupthink occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to deterioration. People may feel inclined to resist giving their opinion for fear that they will be the odd person out. Discussions may thus lack different viewpoints, which is critical for taking an honest look at your business.
Additionally, once a group grows in size, it is difficult to ensure that everyone can participate meaningfully and hierarchical forces are more likely to come into play. People may feel inhibited during discussions and come away feeling that the meeting was more of a monologue than a real dialogue about critical business issues.
In reality, there are only two essential participants in a business strategy review: the CEO and the business-unit head. Everyone else is discretionary and should be included only if he or she is truly a decision maker. The number of decision makers varies from company to company but typically includes the CFO, the head of corporate HR, one or two senior corporate executives and two to three senior members of the business-unit team. People may fight to be included in these meetings, but you can set up other forums keep them informed and get their buy-in.
- Know where the meeting should be held
Strategic planning could take a day, a week or several weeks, depending upon your business. Choosing a location that will be focused and productive is critical. If your planning will only take a day, a large conference room is sufficient. However, make sure you take breaks throughout the day to ensure that your team does not feel trapped. A sense of entrapment could inhibit brainstorming and creativity.
If your planning is likely to take at least a week, consider relocating to a different part of town or traveling to a different city. Creating a type of retreat for your strategic planning team may not only boost morale, but also boost creativity. A change of scenery can facilitate fresh ideas that may not have been inspired by sitting in a conference room for days on end.
- Know what kind of preparation is necessary
Preparation is the key to making a strategy discussion pay off. A document detailing the strategy tasks should be sent out at least a week before the meeting, allowing participants the time they’ll need to study it. Participants will come ready, with prepared minds to ask questions and debate the issues.
Strategic planning can be challenging, but ultimately rewarding. If you invest the time and preparation needed to make your annual meeting successful and productive, you’ll have the best and most efficient route to cruise to your next business venture.
Baker Creative can help your company with strategic planning. Call us today at (614) 836-3845 to get started.
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