Friday, June 26, 2009

Small Companies Can Benefit from Strategic Planning

The online dictionary Wikipedia defines strategic planning as “an organization's process of defining its direction and making decisions on allocating its resources, including its capital and people. It is often times viewed as a process for determining where an organization is going over the next 3 to 5 years or more”. Strategic planning enables an organization to answer the following questions:
  • Who are we?
  • What can we do?
  • What are our strengths and weaknesses?
  • Which critical issues must we respond to?
  • What should our priorities be?
  • Where should we allocate our resources?
  • How do we want to grow?
  • Where do we want to be in the future?

Most large organizations have a significant process of strategic planning where overall directions are given to the organization. They need to do this since there are large amounts of resources at stake and many people and departments involved to manage these resources. However, few small organizations do strategic planning even though relative to their size, they too have large amounts of resources at stake and people involved to manage these resources. The reason for this absence of a strategic plan is usually due to the fact that top management of the organization is very tactically oriented and involved with the day-to-day operations. Just getting through the near term is the only thing on their collective mind. The problem with this is that within the organization, there is no overall plan that gives people direction as they make decisions which means that different parts of the organization can be going in different directions at the same time. In small volumes, this is not such a problem, but as the company grows, it can become very chaotic, frustrating and problematic and can lead to failure due to the conflicting priorities that will exist.

A strategic planning process does not have to be long, time consuming and drawn out, but it should involve the key personnel of the organization. With guidance from a facilitator familiar with the process, implementing a planning process can be fairly quick and simple and can be done without being a major intrusion to the operation. Benefits that can be realized include:

  • Clearly defined business strategies and supporting objectives for growth
  • Identification of business strengths and weaknesses
  • Quantified resource requirements and financial projections
  • Integrated operational plans for each area of the business
  • Clearly defined business performance measures
  • A focus on achieving and building advantages

Strategic plans are very different from operational plans. Operational plans are tactical and are concerned with “today”. Strategic plans are concerned with “tomorrow” and are effective in coordinating the tactical activities so that the future growth of the organization is effective and under control. Without some aspect of a strategic plan that is known to all, activities of the organization will be disjointed and counterproductive, even though everyone is doing what they think is best. Frustration will exist within the ranks and growth will be difficult which can lead to the overall failure of the organization. With a well conceived and communicated strategic plan, an owner or management team will likely get what they want in terms of organizational performance, but without one, they will most likely not and everyone in the organization will suffer to some extent.

What do you find as pros and cons of Strategic Planning? Do you have examples where it helped or hurt?