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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Strategic Planning Best Practices

Getting ready for your annual strategic planning meeting?

Here's a quick listing of strategic planning best-practices:

  • Pick Your Strategic Planning Team. Bring together a small team (six to ten people) of company leaders and managers who represent every area of the company. Don't pick based on seniority - pick based on contribution to the thought process.
  • Schedule an Off-Site Strategic Planning Meeting. Minimize distractions and maximize focus, conduct your strategic planning session away from the office. A well-run strategic planning retreat should take two days, three at the most. Don't schedule it so tight that you don't leave room for a little fun.
  • Get Commitment From Your Strategic Planning Team. You can’t do it alone. If your management team doesn’t buy into the plan, it won’t happen.
  • Use An Outside Facilitiator. The CEO should serve as the strategic plan's "spiritual leader," but he/she should not lead the planning retreat. Participate actively, but don’t dominate the session. To lead the session, hire a professionally trained facilitator who has no emotional investment in the outcome of the plan. An impartial third party can concentrate on the process rather than the end result and ask the tough questions that others might fear to ask.
  • Set Goals That Lead. To have any chance at successful execution, your plan must clearly articulate goals, action steps, responsibilities, accountabilities and specific deadlines.
  • Don't Put The Strategic Plan in a Binder, On A Shelf. Good strategic plans are fluid, not rigid and unbending. They allow you to adapt to changes in the marketplace. Your goals won’t change very often, but your initiatives and projects will.
  • The Strategic Planning Team Writes The Plan. The facilitator merely serves as a meeting guide to keep everyone on track.
  • Commit to The Plan. Before closing the strategic planning session, get team member "buy-in" pledge their commitment in writing to the plan and its successful execution. When you walk out of the room everyone must fully support the plan—even though they may not agree with everything in it.
  • Review the Plan Regularly. Review the strategic plan for performance achievement no less than quarterly and as often as monthly or weekly. Focus on individual accountability for results and have clear and compelling consequences for unapproved or missed deadlines.

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