How to develop an effective strategic plan at first attempt

Effective strategic planning requires a high level of preparedness. The rigours of today’s highly dynamic and innovative world are not an inch tolerant to leisurely approach to the development of strategies.

An effective business strategy must be alive to the subtleties of the world. For that, good strategic planning must entail breaking genuine sweat to put in place tactics that are real to not only the prevailing circumstances, but also to the envisaged scenarios and possible surprises.

Strategies must be very carefully thought out. Unlike many other events, such as innovation, where one can keep trying and testing until the correct formula is established, in strategic planning, mistakes are punished severely. You must therefore aim to get the planning right the first time, lest you expose the organisation to a litany of blunders that may prove to be too costly.

So, how do you ensure that you come up with the right strategic plan the first time?

You engineer the success of the process. This means you prepare well for the planning, and you do so mentally, spiritually and physically. We can liken it to a sports contest. Athletes know that they must get their bodies, minds and souls in tremendous shape and form before they can even think about winning. Winners in sports always precede their victories with intense preparation.

Strategic planning being the event meant to chart out the right path for the organisation, proper preparation ahead of the undertaking is necessary. The preparation is referred to as “planning to plan”, and can be split into two levels: Setting the mood and sharpening the tools.

Setting the Mood

Setting the mood starts with a broad assessment of the strategies that have been followed before and their success rates. This helps to prepare the mind for what must be done to stay on course or changed to improve the journey to the future.

As you think about these, assemble a team of trusted assistants to form the core strategy team. Once properly briefed, they will help with supportive duties, such as doing additional background research and recording relevant discussions. Research shows that for a mid-sized company, the core strategy team should be of between six and eight persons. If the number is stretched, it should not exceed 15 because beyond this, strategic planning can easily become chaotic.

The organisation’s leadership must also be put in the mood. Holding an executive team-building workshop helps. It is important that this team is cohesive and inspired well enough to support, sponsor and own the strategic planning.

Sharpening the ‘Tools’

Sharpening the tools involves educating the teams. This very important exercise concerns the briefing of top management staff and other key stakeholders about the demands and expectations of their involvement in strategic planning.

On average, the educative briefing takes about half a day. This time is not prescriptive though, so the discussion must be let to roll on for as long as necessary to bring the teams up to speed with the approach to be adopted in strategic planning.

Preparation for strategic planning also entails identifying a solid external facilitator. The person must have the knack to handle some of the most stubborn and highly opinionated executive leaders. The selected consultant should thus possess the necessary professional skill and good understanding of group dynamics. The person should exhibit a high sense of confidence with the necessary maturity and wisdom to disarm and convert even the most conceited senior executive.