Strategic planning has its roots in the military. In the 1990 movie “The Hunt For Red October,” there is a memorable scene where the hero, Jack Ryan, is trying to figure out how to help a Russian nuclear submarine captain who is trying to defect (with the submarine and his officers). Ryan wants to come up with a plan to help, but isn’t having much luck until he gets some sage words of advice that help him figure out what is going on: “The average Ruskie, son, don’t take a dump without a plan.” So Ryan realized HE didn’t have to come up with a plan of his own, he just had to figure out what the Russian captain’s plan was and help the captain be successful.
Either way, strategic planning is the key to success.
I chose this example because strategic planning has its roots in the military. A strategic plan determines what you want to do, what resources you will bring to bear, how you will allocate them and what success will look like.
Any business should have a strategic plan with action items. And each project or “campaign” that is undertaken should have a written plan.
There’s an old saying that states: If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else!
For years I have used a very easy outline to create a strategic plan. This will work for something as big as an annual plan, or something as simple as a one-off project.
Once you start using this type of outline, you realize you are simply breaking down all of the tasks involved in accomplishing the big goal into bite-sized pieces that don’t seem as hard to accomplish.
Remember, goals must be SMART:
One important key to successful planning is to write down who is responsible for making each part of it happen. There also need to be deadlines for each phase of the plan, and you should write down ahead of time what constitutes “success” for each item.
You must have a responsible party and deadline for every action item, and you must decide ahead of time what constitutes success for each action.
The strategy is the overall thought of what you want to accomplish. The SMART goal is the specifics of the strategy in one simple sentence (or two). Tactics are battle plans, and action items are what you bring into play to make each battle plan successful.
Here's an example: Susie owns a boarding stable with 25 boarders and teaches another 50 private students who either don't own horses or don't board at her farm. Let's look at what Susie can do to create a strategic plan to help her student horse show get more entries this year.
Strategy: Get more entries for my June 27, 2015, student show.
Goal: Get at least 100 class entries by the end of May 2015.
Tactic #1 Create the strategic plan internally
Action #1 Write out the strategic plan
- Responsible party: Susie
- Deadline: Jan. 11, 2015
- Success measurement: Have completed strategic plan created.
Tactic #2: Survey students to see which classes they might enter.
Action #1: Create a show bill with potential classes for the survey
- Responsible party: Susie
- Deadline: Jan. 13, 2015
- Success measurement: Have show bill created
Action #2 Give survey to all students.
- Responsible party: Joe (Susie's husband) and Susie
- Deadline: Jan. 18, 2015
- Success measurement: All students have been given survey
Action #3 Get survey results and finalize classes
- Responsible party: Joe and Susie
- Deadline: ongoing
- Success measurement: Database updated monthly with new names added and contact information reviewed and shared with those who need it.
Tactic #3 Attend a live equine event each month to expand outreach and registrants for blog
Action #1 Create list of potential events
- Responsible party: Fred
- Deadline: Feb. 1, 2015
- Success measurement: Have 75% or more of surveys returned
…and so on.
In this case, the survey will also serve as an early reminder that the student show is taking place and the classes that might be available.
As you can see, these are all things that Susie probably would do anyway in getting ready to have a student show, but putting the steps down with deadlines, responsible parties and success measurements will allow her to very methodically make sure she gets everything done and one step doesn't get forgotten because she got busy with something else.
If you do a good strategic plan, then you shouldn't look back and say, "It would have been better if I had started planning earlier, done XYZ, or gotten this done."
Any project will benefit from creating a strategic planning sheet. List your goals, tactics, actions needed, responsible parties, deadlines and success measurements. It’s that simple!