Strategic Planning – How Far Can You See?

Vision

Business success is driven by identifying where you want to go and figuring out how to get there step by step.

How far can you see with your business?

When was the last time you took out a few hours and really looked at where your business was headed…versus where you wanted it to go? What would it take to schedule a few hours and really invest in strategic planning? How would you go about making it part of a regular ongoing process?

Unless you know where you’re going and at least a rough sense of how to get there, you’re never going to make real progress with your business.

Maybe you’ve built up some momentum and things are moving well for you. Or maybe you’re feeling stuck and would love to create some momentum?

Either way, now is the perfect time to do some big picture, strategic planning work.

If you’re not sure how to get started, here are a few ideas that might help you.

Keep it Simple – Strategic Planning / 3 Questions

The first thing you need to do is answer a couple of key questions:

‘Who are you?’ and ‘Where do you want to go in the long run?’

Who are you?

I like to start with ‘Who are you?’ because it sets the foundation for everything else. It creates filters for how you’re going to do things.

I guess you could skip this step – a lot of businesses do, but if you aren’t really clear on who you are and what you stand for then it will be really hard to figure out where you want to go (and even more difficult to attract the right people, employees and customers, who will help you get there).

‘Who are you?’ starts with a clear, simple short list of your Core Values. These aren’t platitudes that go up on a wall, never to be mentioned again. This short simple list should be something you live, breathe and use all the time. Mike Michalowicz (author of The Pumpkin Plan) calls these your Immutable Laws – a great description. When you’re not living up to your Immutable Laws, you’ll feel it in your gut, everything will be more difficult and you’ll continually have problems. When you do live up to your Immutable Laws, things will make sense and the world will seem like a much better place.

Get clear on who you are…write it down, share it, use it.

Where do you want to go in the long run?

This seems like an obvious necessity when you think about Strategic Planning…but there are a lot of business owners who are fuzzy on this. Maybe they had a great destination in mind when they started and they’ve lost it over the years, maybe they achieved their initial vision and now are just drifting out of habit…or maybe they were never very clear to begin with.

Whatever the case may be, it’s important to have what Jim Collins calls a Big Hairy Audacious Goal set way out in front of you. (Here are some good BHAG examples for you.)

The idea is to give yourself a beacon to shoot for – there’s no way for you to see all the steps needed to achieve that long term picture, but that’s okay, you just need something to aim at.

It’s also a good idea to paint a picture for what you want things to look like 3 years out. This is where things start to become real. That 3 year vision becomes a great bridge from where you are today to that far future vision.

How are you going to get there?

Finally – once you’ve got the long and intermediate vision laid out, then you’re in a position to start thinking about how you’re going to get there.

Strategic Planning is often ultimately a waste of time because it gets too complicated – but once you’ve got a pretty good picture for where you want to go, how you get there should be a very practical exercise that gets repeated every 90 days and every year.

Top 5 – What do you need to achieve in the next year? Figure out the top 5 things that you want to accomplish next year. The criteria is that if you successfully achieve those 5 things, it will be a great year and you will be much closer to your vision than you are now.

Stay focused on the 5 things that will make the most impact and are achievable.

Next 90 Days – Once you’ve got your Top 5, figure out what you have to get done in the next 90 days to keep pace for the year.  The 90 day targets should also be focused, owned and prioritized – 5 to 7 key priorities and you need to assign an owner to each of them. (Who’s on the hook?).

As you get close to reaching your 90 day window – take some time and plan the next 90 days. And as you get close to the end of the year, the whole thing starts over again.

Before you know it, you are knocking down strategic initiatives left and right and you’ll be amazed at how much you’re getting done!

Bonus Tip – It can be a real challenge to work through a strategic planning process on your own. Consider looking for an independent 3rd party who can challenge you and focus you.

How far can you see right now? Have you carved out some time for Strategic Planning? We’d love to hear your thoughts – leave us a comment below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

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