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Strategic Planning

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Of all the planning and organizational tools and documents that exist within most companies in one form or another, the Strategic Plan is the one that more often than not is nothing more than a mental collection of some generalized beliefs and ideas. Much of the time it has not been written down, almost certainly you can be assured that it has not been regularly updated and revised and rarely if ever does it get communicated to all levels of the organization. The Strategic Plan is the one single tool that most managers would always assert its existence and that they follow its direction without wavering. This is perfect! They have the right attitude regarding adherence to the plan, all that is needed is the plan itself—produced through a team based process, written down in detail, communicated throughout their organization and updated on a regular basis.

What Is a Strategic Plan?

The Strategic Plan is a detailed definition of how the company will operate within the Strategic Plans, planning horizon. Its existence is imperative to the operational organization of a company. It is the road map that insures each business unit in the company, though they may by necessity take different routes, will all end up together at the same destination.

The Strategic Plan will define the mission of the company and its vision for itself in the future. It outlines the company's value and beliefs, those moral and ethical mores within which the organization wants to operate. It has a detailed set of short and long term goals that support the organization following through on its mission and achiev­ing its vision. And lastly, it contains a Statement of Strategic that details what each major business unit within the organization, i.e., Human Resources, Manufacturing, Sales, Marketing, Purchasing, Product Development, etc., will be doing to support the Strategic Plan and its goals.

Let's Form a Team Choosing a Team

After achieving a solid commitment from the top manage­ment of the company, the formation of a balanced, compe­tent team is the next single most important factor in the Strategic Plan development process. As with any team, the optimum number of participants ranges from six to ten members. Fewer than six could lead to an overly narrow focus on the plan development and it also could lead to a lack of acceptance due to not adequately representing all the business units with the organization. Having more than ten members can lead to a state of "process lock", or in other words the inability to achieve consensus. This is a real danger, particularly when you consider that the usual membership of a Strategic Planning team is the "Top Management" group of the company. Egos can be big and tendencies towards needing or operating from a place of control are pretty much a prerequisite for achieving this level of management.

As mentioned previously, the appropriate team for produc­ing a Strategic plan would likely include the top managers from each business unit of the organization. A typical team would include the President of the company and the leaders of each of the following business units, Sales & Marketing, Manufacturing, Human Resources, Materials Manage­ment, Finance, Customer Service, and Information Sys­tems.

Each of the team members irrespective of their position within the organization, should be considered as "equal" partners in the process. The Strategic Plan that is to be produced must be supportable by everyone in the organiza­tion. This can only be achieved through equal and shared responsibility for its development. Domination of the process by one or a few individuals will ultimately lead to the perception that the Strategic Plan is only another edict that came down the "ladder" via the usual hierarchy. Ownership is a key to effectively using the Strategic Plan and this must be achieved through total and equal participation.


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