Strategic Planning – The Path to Success


2020 seems so far away – but in reality it is less than 1600 sleeps.  The future is always right in front of us .  Our last Delfi Blog made the case for having a strategic plan and its importance in driving both personal and business success as the future unfolds.  We suggested three initial changes in approach to getting a strategic plan in place for your personal life  – or for your business:  look for engagement of others; avoid starting with the traditional cement blocks of creating mission and vision statements; and focus more on the future than on the present or the past.  Today I want to dig a little deeper and leave you with some thought-provoking questions – some about today – and some about tomorrow – that will get you started.

Starting with today – deepening our understanding of what we currently have – here are a few questions to get you sarted.

  1. What are the family or organization‘s “givens” that must be protected – elements of the essence or DNA of the entity being planned for ? If it is the family – perhaps it is a commitment to healthy living, or education, or being the best that one can be,  or minimizing debt, or living life to its fullest.  In business it might be maintaining leading edge technology or people; excelling in the arena of customer experience; being in the top 3 suppliers of any product or service you provide.  These are beliefs and values that define you or your business – things that you make sacrifices for to protect.  Adopting any strategy that violates your essence or DNA will lead to frustration and ultimate failure .  Answers to this question are important data points for your journey.
  2. What are the unique strengths of the person, family or business that have enabled it to be successful thus far, and will propel it to further success in the years ahead? When playing euchre, the golden rule is to lead with your best card.  In planning for success, you need to understand the cards in your hand and which ones are important to your pursuit of success .  Critical strengths give you more valuable data points.
  3. From where you sit today, what are some of the important areas for improvement that need to get serious attention as you move ahead ?  You need to be honest with yourself and recognize that all is not perfect in either family or business.  There are areas where improvements are not only possible –but clearly required if you are to attain your future goals.

Now let’s turn our attention to the future.  This is the most important part of the exercise.  Change is no longer predictable – other than it will happen.  The future is no longer a straight line change from the present or past.  More often it is totally discontinuous  – and hence much more disruptive to deal with.   As an example, think of the potential impact of wear-able electronic instruments embedded under our skin or in our clothes.  Would we ever need to go to a hospital again for a medical assessment ??  Do cell phones become obsolete ?  CD’s recently did.  So the question is ……….

  1. What are the trends or potential/probable realities that your family or business will face between now and 2020 ? On the personal front, the answer could be the costs of post-secondary education for children – or  a change in income due to retirement – or the reduced ability to care for a large property because of declining health or increasing age.  On the business front, the advancing technology trend may make your product or your production/delivery processes obsolete.  Currency exchange issues may drive up your production costs and/or increase your market penetration.  Leadership turn-over, advancing retirement of key staff, new competition  – all potentially fit into this data set for planning.

You need to consider a wide source of these potential trends – the aging population (notice the unemployed teachers and boarded up schools), economics, buyer preferences, new materials, new technologies, new competitors, the wired generation that buys from a tablet.

After brainstorming  a long list of these trends, you must now focus on those that have a direct relevance to your family – or to your business.  The list must be significantly shortened to a small number of critical imperatives that you or your business must address – or you risk missing a huge opportunity – or ignoring a huge threat to your success.

This is also the time for the “wicked question” – What is this projected world of 2020 calling us to be?  How is it calling us to be different than we are today.  This is getting very close to your personal or business vision statement.  This is the direction that you are being called in – and that you set for yourself as you drive ahead to a successful 2020.  The mission statement for your business is simply that reason that your business exists – why customers need you.  But vision is the calling that comes from the future.

This is a much better time to try crafting mission and vision statements – because you are anchoring them in the future rather than in the past or the present.  And it is a much easier given all the work that you have done answering the questions above.

As a consulting firm, one of our major product lines is based on this strategic planning process – a process  to help organizations orient themselves for their successful  future.  But please stretch these business questions into your personal and family life as well.  They are just as relevant – and just as powerful.

Looking forward, there is huge truth in the saying that  “A strategy or vision without a plan is delusional and quickly leads to an hallucination”.  Our next Delfi Blog will wrap up this planning series with some thoughts on making the difficult transition from Vision to Action – or creating the operational plan to accomplish the strategy.

And remember – only 1600 more sleeps until 2020.