Strategic Planning at small and medium sized businesses
Most small to medium businesses (SMEs) struggle with the concept of Strategic Planning. Several obstacles loom:
The time that needs to be diverted from regular routine work.
Is it worth it?
How do we go about doing this and who do we involve?
Most SMEs are run by a “genius with a thousand helpers”. There is no management depth in such companies; the owners are usually the senior managers, maybe one or two more and the others are all worker bees, waiting for instructions. In such a climate will a Strategic Plan need arise or if it does can it be satisfied.?
I work with such companies and my approach is to start by keeping the process simple and getting the key influencers from all ranks involved. I lead an initial group of senior managers’ through the process of conception – SWOT analysis, Vision and a mission and get them grounded. Then we focus at another session (and now the group gets bigger, to assemble a broad array of activities that keep us grounded to achieve the mission). This is a good talk session, everyone is encouraged to be a free thinker at the initial stages and then priorities are set based on the constraints of resources, time, people etc. To me at this point the real value and work of the SP starts!!
How are we going to implement this? It is the conversion of strategic plans into tactical or operational dos’ that present the biggest challenge for SMEs. Everyone goes back to the routine they are used to and want. No, No, NO! A lot of thought has to go into converting the SP into daily dos’ over a time period. Tasks and milestones have to be made up that collectively amount to the steps that are needed to reach the goals set in the SP. We are running a marathon that will be made up of several sprints –some run parallel, some sequentially, some interactively between functions. Who will do it, what assistance do they need, when will it be done by. If this is not done, then right here the SP fails!! At the end of the day we need to craft a huge “to do list” divided by function – Marketing, Operations, Admin ( IT,HR, Finance) and further divided within by tasks, people etc. Get this done in as much detail as needed. Then set up a monthly review session so that it takes hold, people know that this SP is here to stay. Give it priority by creating a mechanism of follow ups, reviews, revisions, incentives, to get it into the DNA of the firm. This will not be easy and this is where senior management has to set the example.
The Strategic plan today has to live as a document, tasks and milestones, to do lists, meetings and follow-up reviews, dialogue etc. I am using collaboration tools like basecamp, Asana, central desktop to weave the work into the daily operations of a client.
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