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SHERREN: Designing a simple plan

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As some of you may have noticed, I have been on a bit of a sabbatical these past few months. Now that I’ve returned, my regular columns will change to a monthly format, initially. I hope everyone had a positive and profitable year, and a wonderful holiday season.

It is now time to get back to planning for a productive, healthy, and happy 2019.

Joe Sherren
Joe Sherren

My wife Kristin and I just returned from our annual planning retreat and I feel this would be an appropriate topic to begin the year. 

Let’s start with some simple tips for creating your operational or annual strategic plan – whether you do this for yourself, your team, or for your organization.

First, prepare by doing an internal and external scan of your markets, competitors and potential business partners. After this, review your values, vision and mission (create each of them if you don’t already have it). This will form the context for your “strategic thinking” discussion.

It is important to start with the “vision”. What would energize you, your team and your company that wouldn’t be too huge of a stretch?

Some call this a B.H.A.G. (big, hairy, audacious goal). It is imperative that everyone has a clear idea of what “success” looks like and agrees that this is where you should take the organization.

From this vision, ask two key questions: What are the gaps between our current status and desired state? What are the critical issues that must be managed?

By asking these two questions a few key themes or “categories” will emerge. These become your “strategic initiatives.”

Get agreement on four strategic initiatives (no more than five). Then take each initiative and ask: “What needs to happen to ensure our success?”

From this discussion, create your implementation strategies. You may find a few will cut across two or three strategies. These are the highly leveraged activities that you must get right!

Select a champion for each initiative to ensure progress gets made. Review past successes and future plans for each strategy. Capture it all on one page and use that one-page plan as your guide for making decisions going forward.

Now create both an internal and an external snapshot of the business environment.

An internal scan includes:

  • Listing your strengths and weaknesses. What are the external opportunities, threats or limitations?
  • Evaluating last year: What went well and what would you do differently?
  • Reviewing your metrics: Did they improve, stay the same, or decline? Looking at your current products and services, are they in a growth phase, maintenance, or decline? How much do they contribute to your definition of success?

An external scan involves:

  • A competitive analysis (include products or services that are threats)
  • An analysis of the demand for your products and services
  • New innovations that could potentially replace your products
  • Changes in technology that might render your products obsolete

Put all of that into the pot, swirl it around and the critical issues will emerge. These will be strategic, may take longer than a year, will encompass more than one function and will propel you toward success.

My question for managers:Have you set aside time for your team to complete your annual planning?

Joseph Sherren, international business transformation specialist, can be reached at 902-437-6998, or check his website

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