After all, if you think about it, we’ve all been strategic planners since childhood – setting our objectives, then figuring out the best way to make them happen.
Like the time you figured out that if you wanted Santa Claus to come, you HAD better go to bed first. And when you were older and setting your sites on a special college. You did your research to understand what they were looking for, you took the right classes and participated in the best extra-curricular activities--all in an effort to present yourself as the type of student they would consider.
Of course, now that you are a CEO, the stakes around strategic planning are maybe just a tad bigger. In the bid to get our highest-quality products or services to the market, it will be the strategic planning process – scaled appropriately, of course – that will get us there. Understanding which combination of markets, pricing, offerings for each market segment, distribution channels, communication channels and the like is integral to cracking the ROI code. And with so many options to power today’s strategic plan, it’s hard to fully understand which to do first, and which to leave by the wayside.
In my experience, it’s helpful to follow a five-step process that ensures alignment among the stakeholders in the process, and an outcome that truly suits the desired result. Let’s begin:
“At the exact moment that all its competitors were saying that they were going to charge for baggage, Southwest came out and said that it wasn’t going to do that; instead, Southwest said that you could check your bags for free.” It was a great way to differentiate themselves from the other airlines.
I’ve seen it happen many times -- once the CEO and the entire management team are working from the same vision and understanding of the company, they can create a strategy or playbook, and powerfully execute to achieve their goals. On the flip side, I’ve also observed companies who churn for years trying to gain agreement among the management team—the results are a company that is pulled in different directions, and either doesn’t grow, or under-achieves its potential.
5. Identify your best growth strategy. Once you have established your measureable goals and have insight from your customers and prospects, understand your competition and have your management on the same page, it’s time to leverage all of those great insights to develop a growth strategy. One way to look at your options is with a four-quadrant box, like this one, published in the pages of The Growth Gears.
In this chart, the bottom row represents current customers, and the top row represents new customers; the left-hand column represents current offerings, and the right-hand column represents new offerings. By playing out each scenario, you can see the impact of your decision-making at this stage – for example, by sticking with current customers and offering selections from your current product lineup, you will need to find ways to differentiate, or to improve your existing offering, in order to grow your business using this strategic model.
Most importantly, take a deep breath – if you’ve come this far, you’re ready to be strategic. Unlike those days of our childhood, you’ve got a great team – your senior leaders – along for the ride.
What has your company done to prepare for its strategic planning process?