The Strategic Plan

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Reprinted From: Delaware Business Review
Written By: William H. Master, CPA
Careful strategic planning plays a crucial role in ensuring the continued success of a business, whether the business be large or small. Strategic planning is the process of setting goals in anticipation of growth. It is a systematic way to plan for the future and to chart the course of a business. Rather than letting the winds of the marketplace determine the company's direction, a strategic plan puts the business person at the helm. It allows the business person to be proactive, rather than reactive.

Three basic questions underlie the theory of the strategic plan: what are the goals of the enterprise, how can these goals be accomplished and what are the obstacles that stand in the way of accomplishing these goals? These three broad mind-provoking questions can more easily be addressed by following seven specific steps.

These seven steps include:

  • developing a mission statement
  • setting goals and objectives for specific time frames
  • assessing both the strengths and weaknesses of the business against the opportunities and threats it faces in the marketplace
  • developing alternative strategies for reaching the goals and objectives
  • choosing the master strategies and developing specific tactics to make the most of the opportunities and guard against the threats
  • implementing the strategies and tactics
  • re-evaluating and reformulating better strategies

The mission statement helps to define the particular philosophical tenets of the company. These are the basis of employee and customer policies and are the standard for establishing the strategies needed to accomplish the company's goals and objectives.

While the mission statement describes the general, long-term direction in which the enterprise is headed, goals provide specific objectives to that direction. Goals must be specific, quantifiable, measurable against set standards and challenging, yet reasonable in chances of attainment. Strategies define how to achieve the goals of the plan. Implementation of the plan includes setting target dates and assigning responsibilities.

To successfully implement the plan, key players must be involved from the onset. This facilitates cohesion and commitment to implement the plan. These key players can also play an important role in disseminating the plan's goals to other employees of the company.

Another important factor to ensure the plan's success is to properly communicate the plan and its objectives to all employees of the business. People achieve their greatest productivity when they know what is expected of them and how these goals can be met.

Any business that wishes to remain viable must meet the challenge of planning for the future. The strategic plan will help meet this challenge.