January is a fresh start that brings a lot of pressure. “New year, new outlook.” “Start the year off right.” “New beginnings.” “Resolutions!” It naturally leads both to reflection and looking ahead - a sense of urgency to start, or painfully rehash, the conversation on strategic planning. As we look at January in the rearview mirror, don’t stress, it’s not too late.
But, where do you even begin?! There’s no shortage of articles and templates out there to get you going and/or scare you out of starting in the first place. Take this example from a simple Google search:
“The 5 Steps of the Strategic Planning Process”
1. Determine your strategic position.
2. Prioritize your objectives.
3. Develop a strategic plan.
4. Execute and manage your plan.
5. Review and revise the plan.
Simple, right? But it's too simple. Especially #3 - Develop a strategic plan. Sure! It’s all at once vague, ambiguous and understandably daunting.
Many of us are ending January without a plan because our Google searches left us scared and overwhelmed. We know we need to plan, but planning forces us to confront a future we can only guess at (not to mention this past and current year being unlike any we’ve ever experienced). But it’s not too late, and it doesn’t have to be an arduous process of aimless web searches, long meetings and complicated templates resulting in a “STRATEGIC PLAN” binder that will sit on a shelf. It can be as simple as continually asking questions about your organization – the programs/products/services you provide, your target audiences and the desired outcomes between the two. In fact, as unpredictable as the world is today, strategic plans have to be adaptable and require that we change our approach to the planning process.
“Plans are useless, but planning is everything.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Your plan can be as detailed as you wish, but you can start with a very basic outline. Get key people from various levels of your organization involved (this can lead to more buy-in and better execution) and start by asking simple questions while allowing time for big-picture thinking. Here’s a good start:
1. Where are we now and what are our capabilities?
2. Who are the main audiences that want/need our programs/products/services?
3. What is our direction for the future?
4. How are we going to get there?
Each of these questions can lead to more in-depth discussion such as:
“Where are we now?” outlines your position in the market and your competition as well as high-level financials and profitability.
“Capabilities” focuses on your core talents and value proposition. This is how you differentiate from the competition.
“Future Direction” is where you set goals – sales, profit, service outcomes, etc.
“How are we going to get there” is about execution and what investment or resources you might need to reach your goals.
You can take these questions as high-level or granular as you have the time and desire, creating a basic plan to build on. The plan can become more robust with ongoing communication, added detail, regular review of expectations and outcomes, and adapting (if needed) to whatever curveballs we can undoubtedly expect from 2021.
It’s never too late to create a strategic plan, and it doesn’t have to be scary. And of course, if you want to phone a friend, Anglin PR is here to help with plans from the most basic to robust!