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Success blueprint: Strategic Planning in 3 Steps

In entrepreneurial circles, there’s a well-known book entitled “The E-myth Revisited”, by Michael Gerber, in which a startling statistic is shared. Of the roughly one million new businesses that open in the United States every year, only 4% of those businesses make it to year ten.

According to Michael Gerber’s research, successful companies and organizations that make it to year ten have something in common – they dedicate the appropriate amount of time to working ON the business vs. working IN the business. When you are working ON the business, you are strategically planning for the future. When you are working IN the business, you are tactically responding to daily issues.

Once you are able to commit more time to working ON the business, the best place to start is with a strategic plan. We recommend taking key staff and stakeholders for a retreat - away from their daily tasks for the appropriate amount of time to develop a strategic plan.

3 Steps to Develop a Strategic Plan that Inspires Action and Delivers Results

1. Prep-Up – the preparation before the retreat
Leading-up to your strategic retreat, take the opportunity to engage with and gather information from your internal and external stakeholders. This provides them with an opportunity to think about the future and communicate their ideas via interviews, roundtables, surveys and/or other tools. This might include identifying the key trends and factors affecting the organization, and/or clarifying the organization’s purpose, vision, and core values.

2. Step-Up – the work that happens during the retreat
It’s important to leave your strategic retreat with completed work - a robust, relevant and complete strategic plan that the team can begin working on immediately. The plan should include the organization’s vision, the key strategies required to achieve the vision, and the tactical plan that identifies the required actions, ownership and timelines. In addition, the team must determine what they will measure and monitor to ensure progress is being made towards the goals.

In their book “Playing to Win – How Strategy Really Works”, Roger Martin and A.G. Lafley identify key questions to consider throughout your strategic process:

- What are your winning aspirations?

- Where will you play?

- How will you win?

- What capabilities must be in place?

- What management systems are required?

3. Follow-Up – the work after the retreat
Find the appropriate mechanism and frequency to hold your team accountable for the agreed upon actions as outlined in the strategic plan. I highly recommend the Green, Yellow and Red Light system as an accountability and reporting tool for your strategic plan. In the video below, former CEO of Ford Motor Company Alan Mulally talks from the Stanford Graduate School of Business about the power of using the Green, Yellow and Red Light system (starting at minute 26:15).

blueprint Basics
- Prioritize time working ON the business vs. IN the business.

- Develop a strategic plan for your organization with your key stakeholders.

- Enjoy the process - have fun and truly engage your teams while preparing, creating and deploying your strategic plan.

- Hold your team accountable to the actions and timelines developed in the plan.

- Don’t forget to celebrate key milestones and deliverables along the way!

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