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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tips for Effective Strategic Planning

To get the most out of your strategic planning process, here are some tips:

  • Establish the strategic team. A small team (six to ten people) of company leaders and managers who represent every area of the company.
  • Go off-site for your planning retreat. Minimize distractions and maximize focus by conducting your strategic planning session away from the office. A well-run strategic planning retreat should take two days, three at the most.
  • Get commitment from your leadership team. If your senior leaders don't commit to the plan, it won't happen.
  • Engage an outside facilitator to lead the planning meeting. To lead the strategic planning session, hire a trained professional who has no emotional investment in the outcome of the plan. An impartial facilitator can concentrate on the process rather than the end result and ask the tough questions that others might fear to ask.
  • Include an action plan. To have any chance at implementation, the plan must clearly articulate goals, action steps, responsibilities, accountabilities and specific deadlines. The action plan should also state that the strategic plan is the beginning of implementation.
  • Make the plan available to everyone. Good strategic plans are made available, yet they are also open to being changed and adaptive. While your goals won’t change very often, your inititatives and plans to reach those goals will.
  • Write the strategic plan during the meeting. The team should write the plan during the meeting (not the facilitator.) The facilitator serves as the impartial guide.
  • Get commitment in writing from the strategic planning team. Before closing the strategic planning session, have team members 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 accountability for results and have clear and compelling consequences for unapproved missed deadlines.

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