Running a business, large or small, is challenging. Despite a wealth of great information, which today is very easy to access, there’s still no sure fire route to success. Similar businesses in the same location going after the same markets can achieve very different results. But why?

The reasons are many and varied, but most businesses that succeed do so by design, not by accident. In short, they create and importantly use a strategic plan.

A good strategic plan details the markets in which a company operates or wants to go after, using external data to verify the market’s worth chasing, along with an investigation of what might get in the way or disrupt progress.

It also details the things that need to happen for the strategic plan to succeed, and this is where most strategic plans fail. It’s not that the ideas aren’t great, or at least good, it’s merely that no effort is put into creating the actions required to deliver them.

It’s rare for a book, article or blog post on the subject of strategic planning not to mention how most plans do little more than sit on a shelf and gather dust. All the great thought and enthusiasm that went into the process of creating the plan lost through inactivity.

An effective strategy needs to be responsive and adaptableResponsive and adaptable to what’s going on in the world

The situation is often made worse thanks to the complex spreadsheets supposedly illustrating how a business is progressing. They are rarely received with enthusiasm and usually make the recipients work far too hard when all they want is to understand how things are going.

It shouldn’t be this hard!

In our view, an excellent strategic plan has the following attributes.

  1. Buy in and a desire for action at the highest level.
  2. Verification against external data.
  3. Creation and ownership of the activities that will deliver the initiatives.
  4. Unambiguous and easy to consume KPI’s
  5. A willingness to pivot when the evidence to do so is strong.

Further to this, annual strategy meetings don’t cut it in the 21st century. Things change, things such as markets, technologies, governments and so on. An effective strategy needs to be responsive and adaptable to what’s going on in the world and importantly, continuous. In other words, no more painful annual strategic planning sessions.

To many people the idea of changing a strategy is anathema. To them, a plan needs to be agonised over, usually once a year, and doggedly delivered, no matter what. This approach to strategy is foolhardy and dangerous. It makes much more sense to monitor progress and external factors and modify plans accordingly, or even abandon them!

There are strategy deployment software systems that provide all the required tools to help you avoid making the classic mistakes. Using them could make the difference between the success or failure of your business and let’s face it, in today’s fast paced ever changing world we all need all the help we can get.

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