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Start Planning for Your Organization’s Future—Here’s How

Tuesday, September 15, 2015
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It is easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day aspects of running a business that you never get around to planning for the future. But as the saying goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Indeed, if an organization doesn’t know where it’s headed, its priorities will change constantly with little engagement or commitment from its employees. A strategic plan, however, provides direction and focus for all employees by outlining specific goals and a course of action for achieving them.

Some in your organization may see the strategic planning process as a management fad or a waste of resources. But if done correctly and with proper follow-up and action, strategic planning can ensure a more effective and efficient use of resources, help the organization avoid crises, and prepare it to handle any situation that arises. What’s more, while it is beneficial for any business to have a strategic plan, it will help midsize and large organizations, in particular, to run more effectively while being ready to meet client needs in the future.

Keys to Creating a Successful Plan

A business must include the priorities of its clients in its strategic plan. Therefore, it is very important to gather client input as part of the process. This can be done through surveys, committees, and public meetings. Additionally, because each department has varying needs, it is also important to include objectives and plans tailored for each department in your organization. The process should include participation from all levels of employees. This not only ensures that the plan will address various needs, it also will foster buy-in and a sense of ownership.

If your budget allows, hire a trained professional who has no emotional investment in the plan to facilitate the process. Clearly articulate your goals, specific steps, individual responsibilities, and deadlines. Ensure all involved understand their role. At the end of each session, outline the next steps, responsibilities, upcoming deadlines, and the date of the next meeting.

Elements of a Strategic Plan

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Strategic planning involves establishing the organization’s mission, vision, values, objectives, and key performance indicators.

A vision allows your planning team to decide how you want your organization to be perceived in the future. Meanwhile, the mission statement outlines the preferred future of your organization. It establishes what you plan to do and for whom and reflects your values and philosophy. Objectives provide specific, measurable guidance on how the organization can fulfill its goals. You should also identify positive or negative issues that must be addressed to overcome any barriers to achieving your mission.

Be sure the strategic plan contains actionable items and the accountability necessary to make it an effective tool. Plans composed of generalities and dreams without concrete steps to take do not inspire action. You can avoid this pitfall by making sure your plan contains specific, measurable initiatives or projects that can be assigned to individuals and tagged with completion dates. Then, hold people accountable for their responsibilities.

Include Employees in the Process

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Many plans are developed by external consultants who analyze the organization and prescribe their program for success. This cuts down on internal ownership by managers and employees. Instead, make sure that your executive team is involved in all aspects of the process, even if using outside consultants.

Involve and get input from employees in all areas of the organization. Give them a chance not only to react to a first draft but also to have input with planning ideas. Plans that result from widespread involvement start out with more support. It makes it easier to “sell” the plan to the whole organization later on.

Don’t Forget the Follow-Up

Perhaps the most important aspect of strategic planning is implementation. Organizations sometimes simply fail to keep the plan a living, visible map for action, due to changing priorities or the daily demands of running an organization. To help increase your odds of success, be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • set your activities in order of priority and establishing short- and long-term deadlines 
  • establish an implementation committee and delegating tasks to current or new committees 
  • share the highlights of your plan with those involved to gain their support and help with implementation 
  • determine who will monitor your progress in accomplishing your strategic plan 
  • continue to implement, review, and evaluate the plan on an ongoing basis.

Starting the strategic planning process may seem daunting. It may take you away from your immediate tasks. But putting together an effective team and taking the time now will position your organization for a bright and successful future.
Editor’s Note: This post is adapted from “Strategic Plan for Your Business” by Mohawk College Enterprise.

About the Author

Audie McCarthy is president and CEO of Mohawk College Enterprise, the corporate training subsidiary of Mohawk College.

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