6 Steps for Building a Strategic Planning Process
There’s a meme circulating right now on Twitter. It asks: Who led the digital transformation of your company? A) CEO B) CTO C) COVID-19. Very few of us planned for the current pandemic, and it’s forcing a lot of companies to take stock and reevaluate their goals, future plans, and business practices.
But change is hard. So is planning for change. Nowadays companies have to be nimble, especially those competing at the global level. Because of that, it can seem counterintuitive to stop, take a step back, and reevaluate what you’re doing. But unlike sharks which need to keep moving in order to survive, sometimes you need to stop and reflect before you can start moving again.
The strategic planning process is a way for companies to determine the direction they want to take. Through it you can organize, prioritize, and carry out business goals. The process offers a systematic way to deal with changes and gives clear-cut guidelines in times of chaotic upheaval and stress.
This article will give you an introduction to the strategic planning process. We’ll provide a definition, as well as some ideas as to when it’s right to initiate the process. We will also go through the steps for building your own strategic planning process with some tips on how to better execute each step. Plus, we’ll provide you with an infographic to guide you through the process.
What is a strategic planning process?
The strategic planning process lets you decide on the direction of your company as well as the steps that need to be taken in order to get you there. A plan can also give you the means to measure this success and evaluate your progress. Writing a strategic plan is a good opportunity to record the goals, values, and ultimate vision for your company and can help you decide what your next moves are.
Read on: See some more tips on building and defining a better resource planning strategy.
When should strategic planning be done?
Strategic planning can be done at any point, but especially in the beginning stages of your company or when you are going through a new phase or encountering a new difficulty. It’s a good idea to get a start on the process before you open a new business. But for many it can also be helpful to be in business for a while to really get a grasp on all the ins and outs of daily operations.
Some companies create new plans annually. While others, simply go back and reevaluate their old plans at a predetermined interval. But if you go through a major change or there’s a global event which affects the majority of businesses, then it might also be a good time to gather the team and embark on formulating a new process.
Strategic planning is ongoing, and you might need to go back to certain steps along the way. So it’s not as important to know when to start, as it is to just start and see where it goes.
What are the steps to build a strategic planning process?
There are a number of methods to building a strategy to get your company out of difficult situations. Although the terminology differs, the process is basically the same. And it can be boiled down to 6 steps.
Here are the 6 steps to building a strategic planning process and some tips on how to bring these steps to reality.1. Identify the direction, problem, or goal
3. Analyze your options
4. Propose a solution
6. Review and adjust
1. Identify the direction, problem, or goal
Perhaps this sounds self-explanatory, but this first step isn’t always so straightforward. Identifying the problem you need to fix or the goal you want your company to take, means weeding through lesser problems or prioritizing certain goals over others. There might be a number of problems occurring at the same time, so pinpointing the exact one may not be simple. Likewise it may also be difficult to separate your main goal from supporting goals.
For example, maybe you want to open new branches of your company by the end of the year. But doing so requires funding. So you need to decide what the short and long term goals are and if they work together to bring you to the same endpoint.
Tip: Visualizations of company plans can help identify the problems’s hotzone, and from there can make it easier to see what’s wrong and what specifically is causing the problem. And if you are managing several projects at once. It can be a good idea to get some tips on project portfolio management and how specific software can help you keep an eye on all your plans.
This point is a good time to gather everyone who is involved in the process together and get them all on the same page. Then it’s time to hit the books. Do some research and collect as much information and data as possible.
Is the problem you’re facing due to internal or external factors? Or a combination of both? Do you have all the up-to-date information on your goals and plans? And do you have the means to achieve them?
Make sure that before embarking on your plans that you have as much info as you can. This will help you bring your plans to fruition and ensure their success.
Tip: Now is also a good time to do a SWOT analysis or engage in S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goal setting. Use these techniques in conjunction with a Gantt chart to make sure you have the proper capacity and can work within the specific timeframes. Likewise, if you need help sorting through the best Gantt chart software, check out our guide.
3. Analyze your options
Often the most time consuming part. You’ll need to run through different scenarios to decide which one would be the best. You will also need to decide whether or not to bring in an outside entity to evaluate your situation and the possible outcomes.
It’s also important at this stage to ensure your stakeholders have given their input. Although this can often cause delays due to disagreements, it’s easier to make changes now, then later on down the road.
Tip: Use Gantt charts for scenario planning. These bar charts are a great way to see your resources, tasks, and their dependencies. Create different charts for different potential scenarios and you’ll be able to see exactly how much time, money, and resources you’ll need for each solution.
4. Propose a solution
Once you’ve run through your different scenarios, it’s time to make a concrete plan. You may need to prioritize which initiatives will be most beneficial and which should be executed first. You can also decide which of your options are not only the most achievable considering your budget and capacity, but also timeframe and overall results.
Tip: In order to coordinate with everyone about your proposal, it’s important to be able to share your plans. As well as making it clear when something has been tweaked. Spreadsheets can become messy in this situation, especially if multiple people are working on multiple sheets. Cloud-based solutions work better by letting different people collaborate from anywhere and also making the new changes apparent to everyone.
It can also be helpful to be able to set and restrict certain access rights for editing and viewing these proposed projects. Giving the right people the right access can ensure your collaborative process runs more smoothly.
After you and your stakeholders have agreed on the direction you plan to take, put it into action! Roll out the new objectives and how you plan to achieve them. The faster you can implement your solution, the faster you can start to see results.
Tip: Transparency is key here. Not only do the stakeholders and bosses need to be on board, but everyone in the company needs to know what the new changes are and how they will be put in place. Make sure you keep everyone informed of their new roles and responsibilities with shareable plans.
For example, in Ganttic, you can add as many users as you need to your planner, for no additional fee. So if using planning software to share your plans, do some research on pricing to verify that your team can actually see their new roles and the changes made. For some tips on selecting the best planning tools, you can check out our guide here.
6. Review and adjust
When you’ve reached a predetermined amount of time, periodically check back to see if your implemented solution is working. You may need to give this some time and compare it at certain intervals.
Tip: Getting the info you need about how your plan is easy if you receive automatic reports. With some planning software, you can choose which metrics you want measured and at which interval you want them sent to you. This lets you compare current data to the past and makes it easier to see if your plan is getting you where you want to be.
Plan for success
A successful business not only plans for success, but has contingencies in place when the plans change. Formulating a strategic plan is the first step in protecting your company from an unforeseen future because not only will you have a good idea of where you want to go, but with constant monitoring and adjusting you’ll know if you are heading in the right direction.
If you are interested in creating a strategic plan, it can help if you use software which gives an overview of your plans and which you can easily share. Ganttic lets you create Gantt charts to keep you organized while measuring your progress. There’s a reason why 40% of our clients end up growing their business when using our software. Find out more by contacting us or sign up for a personalized demo today!