Strategic planning - an introduction

Strategic planning is important and clear goals and objectives are essential for a business to achieve sustained growth and profitability. But for such exercises to be effective you must be ruthless in maintaining focus and achieving measurable results.

Try applying these golden rules to your next strategy session:

Keep a strategic focus - Abandon the fire-fighting mode and emphasise what is important rather than what is urgent. Set goals that look at least a year ahead.

Identify the vital few - The 80:20 rule applies as much to goal setting as it does to any other aspect of your business. For every ten goals proposed, two or three will be of overriding strategic importance. However worthy your list of goals might be, you have to be ruthless in reducing them to just two or three. Any more than this and the business will lose strategic focus.

Insist on measurability - Whenever a goal is proposed force the question, 'How will we know when this goal is achieved?' If you cannot quantify the process and specify the metrics you do not have an attainable goal.

Spell out an action plan - This is where the rubber hits the road - the specific list of to-do's that will translate words into actions and actions into results.

Focus all major resources on achieving the agreed goals - Now is the time to be ruthless and totally focused on ensuring the goals are achieved. Direct all your financial, human, and technical resources to this end and treat everything else as distraction.

Apply the acid test to all decisions, activities, and use of resources: Does this help us achieve our key goals? If the answer is 'Yes', support it, if not, avoid it.

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