Strategic Planning Basics – Part 1

Strategic Business Planning

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery
How do I achieve my goals? Where will we be in a year? If my sales goal is two million dollars, how do I reach that number? How do I allocate resources? Planning is the answer.

As a consultant, I have visited struggling organizations only to find that they struggled because they had no direction and absolutely no plan. I have seen other organizations that have forgotten the basics of a plan. A goal and a plan to achieve the goal are a must!

I also spent some time in the military where developing a plan for an operation might take weeks or months. Despite all of this planning, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy,” as Prussian Army Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltkof said in the 1800s. The plan changes with the first contact with the enemy because the plan is based upon assumptions and expectations on how the enemy will react to the action. Planning is about the journey not necessarily the battle. The planning journey prepares the army, by allowing the army to anticipate hurdles, allocate resources and reduce risk.

Most for-profit organizations do not have months or weeks to devote to planning, especially if the plan only survives the first contact with the “customers.” That’s okay but the planning process is essential because it allows you to determine obstacles you will encounter; pinpoint the help you’ll need from other departments; set a timeline; and, most importantly, define the goal. A plan should not be blindly followed nor should it be put on a shelf when complete: Planning is a continuous process, so the plan should be altered and updated based on feedback and assessments.

The US Army Field Manual 5.0 defines planning as follows:

Planning is the art and science of understanding a situation, envisioning a desired future and laying out effective ways of bringing that future about. Planning is both conceptual and detailed. Conceptual planning includes developing an understanding of the operational environment, framing the problem, defining a desired end state, and developing an operational approach to achieve the desired end state. In contrast, detailed planning translates the broad concept into a complete and practical plan. Detailed planning generally corresponds to the science of operations and detailed planning works out the scheduling, coordination or technical issues involved with moving, sustaining, administering, and directing forces.

The military planning process is scalable, from the soldier in the field using his or her planning skills all the way up to headquarters and its large planning department. At your business, someone should be responsible for championing the plan and senior leadership should support the planning process. To develop the plan, time will need to be set aside for the plan.

Remember the fundamentals of a plan:

  • Define a goal
  • Planning is a continuous process
  • Plans are time-sensitive
  • Keep plans simple
  • Keep them flexible
  • Be bold!