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Introduction to strategic planning

The growth of your business rides on having an actionable plan that will help you reach your ultimate vision for the company. Devising a strategic business plan is one way to help ensure you’re on track for success.

What is strategic planning?

Strategic planning does not mean simply having an idea of your goals and roadmap in your head; making a strategic business plan is a dedicated, disciplined organisational management activity. A strategic plan is a tangible document that a business puts together and uses to guide its processes. Strategic planning outlines the wider goals of a business, the actions required to achieve these goals, and the metrics by which the plan’s success will be measured.

Business plans vs. strategic planning

A strategic plan is not the same as a business plan. Business plans focus more on devising a detailed, actionable roadmap towards a particular short-term objective. On the other hand, strategic planning concentrates on the long-term goals of the business as whole, taking a broader approach.

Developing a strategic plan

While there’s no one right way to go about it, there are a number of existing frameworks that have proven to be beneficial when developing a strategic plan. Almost every approach to the strategic planning process will focus on the same core attributes and considerations.

The first step is to analyse your current environment. Understand where your business is at right now, and the current climate of the market or industry overall. Discuss what is working well and what isn’t, and define your current processes and operations. Take a critical approach to monitoring the strengths and weaknesses of your business and how they interact with your overall growth.

Next, discuss where you want your business to go. Think about your mission as a company, the values you want to foster, and the financial goals you’re targeting. This includes both how you want your business to perform in the market, as well as how you want your business to be shaped internally. Think about your vision of growth and where you see your company being in five to ten years.

Do you want to go global? Do you want to dominate the market? Do you want to foster a strong company culture and community? Think beyond profit margins and outline the specific goals you envision for the long-term when making a strategic business plan.

With an idea of what you want to achieve, you can then start to figure out how exactly you’re going to achieve it. Each objective defined in your strategic planning process should have an action alongside it that will bring you closer to achieving those goals.

Making and measuring changes with strategic planning

Think about what needs to change in your processes and operations to facilitate your growth, what areas need improvement, what strengths should be reinforced, and how you will go about implementing any necessary changes. Consider your organisational structure and if it offers the most effective pathway to your goals. Evaluate your spending and redefine your budget based on the specific targets you’ve set in place.

These steps are the most important things to consider as you put together a strategic business plan. You can’t make practical, realistic goals without understanding your company’s current environment, and making goals is useless without pairing them with specific, pragmatic actions.

When developing a strategic plan, establish processes and systems that allow you to continually measure your performance. Decide what metrics and KPIs you’ll need to track to ensure your strategic planning process is successful. You should use your strategic business plan to inform your business decisions and shape your operations, so always refer back to it as a guidebook for success.

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