Eleven Tips to Make Your
Strategic Plan a Success
By Bill Birnbaum, CMC
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1. Carefully select the members of your planning team.  Use two criteria for selection - first make sure you include those who can, and will, contribute positively to the content of your resultant plan. Second, make sure you also include those who are positioned to drive the successful implementation of the strategies within the plan. That means leaders - both formal (per the organization chart) leaders and informal (natural) leaders.
2. Remember that strategic planning is more than an event; it’s a process.  Once you’ve developed the plan, your work is just beginning. Implementation is where you’ll spend the bulk of your time and resources. Make sure you take that implementation seriously. Integrate your plan into the day-to-day operation of your business.
3. Educate your managers to the strategic planning process.  Make sure they all understand the definition, and the importance, of terms - like, “mission” and “objective.” And make sure they all understand the critical role they play in both strategy development and strategy implementation. A workshop (with an applicable case study) on the “front end” of the process works best.
4. Involve employees beyond those on your planning team.  Ask them for help. Have them participate in pre-planning surveys to “bubble up” issues for discussion at your up-coming strategy sessions. And be sure to offer them feedback on the outcome of those sessions. Remember, asking for their input implies a promise to feed back. If you forget that feedback, they’ll feel cheated.
5. Gather applicable information prior to your strategy sessions.  Have your planning team think through the issues you’ll likely discuss at your up-coming strategy sessions - and decide on the information they’ll need to deal with those issues and arrive at strategic decisions. Then, prior to your strategy sessions, gather and share that information among the members of your planning team.
6. Hold your strategy sessions away from your office.  Avoid the interruptions and distractions which so often arise when planning team members’ offices are “just down the hall.” It’s too easy to step down the hall to check a message, and return much, much later. Don’t fall victim. Meet “off campus.”
7. Allow enough time for your strategy sessions.  Strategic thinking involves thoughtful discussion. This simply takes time. Those who rush, end up with an inferior plan.
8. Encourage open communication.  If you’re the boss, you’ll play the most difficult role in the process. For you’ll walk the fine line between being an active participant and coming across as “too strong.” As the boss, you’re in a position of leadership. Others will simply hear your voice as a bit more loud than any of the others. Tone it down a bit and encourage others to participate.
9. Communicate your strategy.  Once you’ve developed your strategic plan, let your employees know of your strategy. After all, it is they who will help with its implementation. And don’t just tell ‘em once. Tell ‘em again. And again.
10. Keep your plan alive.  Have your employees develop specific action steps (tactics) to implement your strategy. Monitor progress of those action steps at quarterly review meetings. Remember, it’s one thing to develop a strategy, and quite another to implement it. This is real work! You’ll need to manage it as such.
11. Link your strategic plan to your budgeting process.  As part of your action plan development (see #10, above), estimate the resources required to accomplish all of the action steps - thus implement the strategy. Those resources should include: people, money, facilities and equipment. These estimates feed nicely into the budgeting process. So your budgeting cycle should (ideally) follow your strategy development and your action plan development.

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