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Build Your Own Strategic Plan

The Affordable Way for SME’s to Have One

Back when I was working in a senior position for a large corporation I was invited to “participate” in a strategic planning process.

A bunch of suited young MBA’s from a leading consulting firm raided us, interviewed the management team, studied our books and our systems, went away for 3 months and then we were invited to a festive Senior Management meeting and were presented with our Vision, Mission, and 5 year Strategic Plan. In-between I learned that this exercise cost the company a few hundred thousand pounds.

Three years on and only one marginal initiative was to have been executed.

If you ever took part in a corporate strategic planning process you are probably not surprised by this. While doomsday statistics of 70%-90% strategic plans implementation failure rate is probably exaggerated the actual success rate is far from 100%, which begs the question of why, taking into consideration the high costs, companies even bother.

I will not attempt to answer this question. Instead I will focus on the reasons for a high rate of failure which are also the why SME’s can and should create their own strategic plans without the help of “experts”:

  1. Cost - most SME’s cannot afford paying 5-6 figures amounts to consultants. A DIY option can get better results and does not cost anything (or very little if you choose to hire a facilitator). The high costs of consultants also mean that companies do not do this exercise frequently enough and in a fast-changing environment this simply doesn’t work. A short DIY strategic planning process is something you can do every year, if necessary.

  2. Commitment - the corporate approach of hiring consultants to create “your” plan is a bit like telling someone what kind of cake you like and then watching them eating it – you know it’s good but you don’t experience it and therefore have no benefit. In our context it means that the management team is not involved in the process other than as information providers. Since involvement begets commitment, lack thereof begets indifference. Getting the management team to create the plan themselves generates commitment, enthusiasm, cohesion, and energy. This is what eventually will drive the execution and success.

  3. Implementation - a typical strategic plan will stop short of creating a detailed execution plan. Without it, the plan may be a nice idea but not a practical solution. You do not need external experts to create an execution plan - you know your company, your management team and your resources and you have a calendar.

I will not argue the importance of a strategic plan. If you think you can get to where you want to be without knowing where that is and having a plan to get there - good luck to you.

But if you agree that a strategic plan is essential to your organisation’s success, get on with it. And if you are unsure you can run the process yourself, hire a facilitator - so long as they know how to manage an internal discussion rather than make decisions for you it can be beneficial and doesn’t cost an unaffordable amount of money.

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