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Course 4: Strategic Planning

Chapter 4: Developing the Strategic Plan

So far, we have accomplished two important steps: Organizing the Process and Assessing the Situation. We are now ready to translate our critical issues into a formal plan. We can think of a strategic plan in terms of layers, working down from the top. The Mission Statement is the top of the ladder or pyramid. The next layer is the strategic objectives of the organization followed by strategic goals. Next, we move down to specific action steps for meeting the strategic goals. The level of detail tends to increase as we move down the pyramid of the Strategic Plan:

We need to develop a set of strategic objectives that will address the significant critical issues of the future. Although critical issues are the main determinant of strategic objectives, the following criteria also need to be considered:

1. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT). This is a good place to start if you are not sure how to address critical issues. Remember you are trying to maintain a good fit with all elements from the planning process.

2. Available resources that will affect what you can do. Strategic objectives should be developed based on the best use of resources.

3. Tradeoffs between upper and lower management. Upper-level management will set ambitious objectives that are difficult for lower-level managers to meet. Therefore, a negotiation needs to take place between upper and lower management on final strategic objectives.

4. Past performance adjusted for future trends should fit with strategic objectives. Once again, we are trying to find the right fit based on what we are capable of doing. Past performance is a good indicator of capabilities. In addition to the above criteria, strategic objectives should attempt to meet the following tests:

1. Strategic objectives clearly support the Mission Statement by moving the organization in the right direction.

2. Strategic objectives are realistic and achievable based on available resources, existing competition, management styles, etc.

3. Strategic objectives are acceptable to those who have to implement the objectives in terms of costs, time, staffing, and other requirements.

4. Strategic objectives are not rigid and allow for change given unplanned events.

5. Strategic objectives are specific enough to allow for measuring progress.

6. Strategic objectives are simple, easy to understand, and convey responsibilities to specific areas.

EXAMPLE 6 - Strategic Objective No.4 for Appalachian Tree Growers

Our objective is to increase market share in Western Europe by 10% over the next three years.

One of the most common approaches to setting strategic objectives is the critical issues approach; i.e. looking at critical performance areas such as market share, product profitability, production efficiencies, employment practices, public responsibility, etc. However, we can also take three other approaches, scenario playing, organizational alignment and goals approach.

Scenario Playing: Under scenario playing, several different alternatives are developed based on what could happen. What will the organization look like if this happens or this happens? This approach selects the preferred scenario based on the merits of each. Scenario playing is a better approach then the critical issue's approach when the organization has several different directions to choose from. On the other hand, scenario playing is not a good approach if the organization is simply trying to fine-tune or adjust its strategic plan.

Organizational Alignment: Under this approach, you are trying to get all parts of the organization to work together. This is required before you attempt to address critical issues with strategic objectives. Organizational alignment determines what is working and what is not working. What parts are holding the organization back? Strategic objectives are developed to re-align the organization so that everything is working properly.

Strategic goals are the next layer within the Strategic Plan. Some organizations prefer to set goals rather than objectives, which leads us to a third approach, the Goals Approach. The Goals Approach is straightforward. It focuses on goals since most people are very familiar with goal setting. A goals approach works well for larger organizations that have multiple business units or divisions. If the organization is small and/or the operating environment is rapidly changing, then a goals approach may not work.

EXAMPLE 7 - Strategic Goal No.2 for Appalachian Tree Growers

The Marketing Department will submit a promotional program by September 30th targeted at France, Germany, and Spain.

The key elements of a strategic plan are now in place - Mission, Objective, and Goals. It is time to pull all of the elements together and draft the Strategic Plan. In order to make the plan complete, additional sections will be added. These sections include:

1. Executive Summary: A one or two page summary of the Strategic Plan which touches on the main components, such as mission, objectives, and current situation.

2. Principles: The beliefs and values of the organization can help add substance to the Strategic Plan.

3. History: A brief summary about the organization. How did it get started? What significant events changed the direction of the organization?

4. Profile: Some basic facts about the organization, such as markets served, size of organization, major product lines, etc.

5. Situational Analysis: A brief summary of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats now confronting the organization.

The circulation of a draft strategic plan will sometimes prompt new ideas, new issues, and new objectives. Therefore, one of the critical steps in strategic planning is to refine and adjust the draft plan. Get everyone to agree on the major objectives and goals since this will direct what the organization will do in the next year or two. You must have a clear and concise strategic plan for easy translation into action steps. This is the next major step in the process - developing an Operating Plan. And don't forget to evaluate the process so you can improve the next planning session.

EXAMPLE 8 - Evaluation of the Strategic Planning Process

1. Do you believe the strategic planning process was useful?

2. Did the Strategic Plan produce the right results in regards to: Mission, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats, Critical Issues, Identification of Competition, and Goals.

3. Do you believe strategic planning improves the management of the organization?

4. Does strategic planning fit within the organization?

5. Do you believe strategic planning improved how assets are deployed?

6. Do you believe that key groups affected by the Plan had sufficient opportunities for input into the Plan?

7. Do you believe the time spent on strategic planning was appropriate?

8. Did strategic planning follow a set of efficient steps?

9. Did strategic planning facilitate new ideas?

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Chapter 1: Preliminary Considerations
Chapter 2: Organizing the Process
Chapter 3: Assessing the Situation
Chapter 4: Developing the Strategic Plan
Chapter 5: Implementing the Strategic Plan

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