Thursday, September 29, 2022

You've been asked to write a strategic plan (ugh!)

Who wants to write a strategic plan?
Really, nobody, unless you are a professional planner and that's your livelihood.
But, what if you're asked to write, or help write, a plan?

Of course, you can "google" it; and you'll find no lack of help with templates and outlines and even some process.
But here's a bit from my experience.

Ask for the narrative
Asking for the narrative from whomever has asked for the plan is everybody' s favorite first step.
But it may not be as easy as story-telling:
  • Maybe the sponsor knows they are in a bad spot, but doesn't know where the future is. This is a really hard one, since the future could be anywhere
  • Maybe the sponsor knows what the future should be, but has no idea of how to get there. This is the easier one, since at least there is a target to aim for
  • Maybe the sponsor is in name only; maybe the 'strategic plan' is called for in the standing protocols or bylaws, and the sponsor actually doesn't feel the need for the plan. This is also a hard one because committed resources to get the plan done will be problematic
  • Maybe the sponsor thinks a strategic plan is just a 3-year budget plan. This will take some work to get that mindset reset.
Nonetheless, all that said and internalized, you actually do need a narrative in order to provide an organizing framework.

What are some of the questions?
The right questions to ask are situational. That should be intuitively obvious. Private sector, civil government, police-fire-military, non-profit, religious, and on we go. A lot of diversity.

Frame the questions in context with the traditional four sectors (Balanced Scorecard):
  1. Financial objectives
  2. Products and services, now and 'then'
  3. Customers and customer service, now and 'then'
  4. Operations and operational effectiveness
Financial is just not accounting. The fundamentals of the business model may be at stake. Maybe your industry is changing so rapidly, you exit for new territory.

Customers support the business model, yes, but ....  The business model exists to serve customer needs. Maybe they just don't need what you have, so something new is needed. What are the characteristics of a new or different customer base?

OE (operational effectiveness) is the tricky one for many:
  • Will you need the workforce you have now?
  • Should the workforce be younger or older; more or less expensive; more or less diverse; and with new or just improved skills? Can you even ask some of these questions?
  • Will you emphasize remote or local, W-2's or contractors?
  • Will you need the facilities you have now? Buy or lease new? Here or somewhere else? 
  • "Lean" was supposed to be the OE answer, but times have changed. What's the secret sauce for effective operations going to be?
There's a lot of stuff that goes into a strategic plan. Good luck with that!

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