10 Ways to Develop a Great Business (Or Any Other) Strategy
As you may know, in management there are 3 main levels: strategic-, middle-, and first line management. Strategic management is the top level of an organization. Therefore, strategic management does strategic planning. Sounds logical so far? Good! Now, strategic planning pertains to the company ís performance over the next 5 or 10 years: long term, in other words.
It may be best to start out by trying to explain what a strategy is in simple terms: If you are now at point A, and you want to go to point B, then the road you choose to go from A to B is your strategy.
A ---strategy---> B
But just like everything else in management, strategies are also things that non-managers deal with all the time. After all, we are always deciding how we will go from one point in our life to the next, isnít it? Well, those are all strategies. We just donít call them that.
An important thing you may want to remember is that strategies, too, are subject to change. But unfortunately, a lot of companies seem to forget that. They blame everything for the companyís declining performance, as long as itís not the dead horse theyíre riding on: their good old strategy. But as you know: if something has worked for 25 years in a certain way, it may be time to alter it, and that can very well happen to a strategy, especially in these fast-changing times!
Here are 10 simple points that may help you develop a good strategy, whether you are a manager at work, or just the manager of your life:
1) Formulate for yourself where you currently stand. In order to do that, you will have to make a listing of your current position. Depending on the area in which you develop your strategy, you may or may not have to focus on issues of economical, competitive, skill-based, or emotional performance.
2) Formulate for yourself where you want to be. For most people this is what triggers them to develop a strategy in the first place: a vision about the future presents itself to them, and they start thinking. But when you are at the verge of really planning to realize that vision, you better formulate your goal. In clear terms!
3) Formulate your vision statement Letís first talk about the vision: thatís the long-term view. If you look at the little illustration above, it would be the B-point: where do we want to be in so many years from now? So, thatís the vision of a company (or yourself). Your vision statement is not a luxury: it keeps you focused on your ultimate goal. Itís a short and sweet reminder that you write out in one paragraph, print out, frame, and place on your desk, so that you can always see it.
4) Formulate your mission statement Based on the vision (where you want the company or yourself to be 5 or 10 years from now), you develop a mission statement. This, too, is preferably a short and sweet, one-paragraph statement, but it pertains to the current situation: what am I in business for? What do I stand for? How am I executing it? What is important for me while doing that?
5) Make a SWOT analysis SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths and weaknesses are your internal issues; opportunities are threats are the external ones you have to deal with.
Above you see a simple representation of what your SWOT analysis could look like. This tool will give you an immediate and clear overview of the points the things to focus on (Strengths), the things to work on (Weaknesses), the Opportunities to seize, and the Threats to be careful with
6) Discuss it with those involved If you are member of strategic management in a business organization, you are best off if you develop all of the above together with your team of experts. If you are a single person, you may still request advise from some people you trust in order to see whether your perspectives are making sense.
7) Write the plan This is where the SWOT listings turn out to be very helpful. Make sure you keep your plan simple and easy to follow. A good plan has small steps and measurable intermediate goals, which leave room for celebrating and getting reenergized toward the final goal.
8) Discuss the plan Always keep communication lines open. Never develop anything, and definitely not something as important as a strategy that everybody will have to help achieving, without talking about it. Communication makes people feel that they are recognized, and it motivates them.
9) Cascade the strategy Make sure lower echelons understand the plan and can write it directly to their level of responsibility. This means that, depending on the level of management we are looking at, the strategy will be broken down into 1-2 year-, or 1-52 weeks chunks.
10) Keep a copy of the main plan at hand This is definitely a good idea, as it will help you to realize that even your fabulous strategy could be subject to change! Keep looking around, but also: keep looking ahead. You may have to respond to a competitorís unexpected moves by changing your strategy, but whatís even better: you may have to respond to your own new insights and inventions by changing your strategy while you are stirring up the entire industry!
Dr. Joan Marques, Burbank, CA
About the Author: Joan Marques emigrated from Suriname, South America, to California, U.S., in 1998. She holds a doctorate in Organizational Leadership, a Master's in Business Administration, and is currently a university instructor in Business and Management in Burbank, California. You may visit her web sites at http://www.joanmarques.com and http://www.spiritcounts.com
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