What does strategic planning entail?
In an earlier blog we explored this question and determined that the concept of strategic planning is quite simple, as shown in the diagram below.
However, though simple in concept, each step may be less so in practice. Step 4 is an ongoing process. Everything that goes on in business should be subject to frequent, if not constant, review. The aim is to ensure that strategic decisions are implemented effectively, consistently and with the desired outcome.
Throughout the year, as deviations from plan occur, adjustments should be made to keep actuals and plan in step. At least once a year a major review should question and re-affirm the direction of the plan.
It was noted that the Business Adept Cards system supports the strategic planning process by adding intuition and subconscious knowledge, thus enabling focus of effort on the most advantageous areas.
This blog examines more closely the 4th step in the cycle – Review it - ie whatever activity the organisation is pursuing. I’ll also give examples of how the BA Cards can be used to identify the best ways and means.
Step 4 Review it
Reviewing is an important part of the planning cycle and warrants careful consideration. It is all too easy to be seduced into mishandling this activity. Small companies may feel they are completely in control and become complaisant – not do enough. Large companies have the opposite tendency. They are inclined to get carried away with data processing overkill, losing sight of both how much it all costs and its true value. A review is only of value if something can be changed in response.
When conceptualising the review process, the best approach for any size of business is to work backwards. Ask the following questions:
- What are the outputs from each element of the overall operation?
- What standards and targets have been set for each of them?
- What information is needed to determine the right level of performance?
- How can the information be obtained and how much will it cost?
- Will the review enable adjustments of enough value (financial and strategic) to justify the expense?
If the answer to e) is “no”, it may still be worth either i) finding a less expensive way of gathering information or ii) undertaking less frequent reviews. If an activity isn’t measured, it can’t be managed.
In these days of automation and computerisation, much of the data collection and processing for review purposes can itself be automated. Many off-the-shelf applications include a performance management element. But is it used? And do all bespoke systems have similar functionality built in? Making sure of this functionality and of using it is by far the most accurate and cost-effective way of managing performance.
To make the most of such facilities, there is still a choice of which components are relevant – with off-the-shelf some may be superfluous – and it may be necessary to set parameters for exception reporting. That way, while monitoring may be constant, your involvement will be limited to exceptional variations, which may require intervention.
If you do not have the benefit of sophisticated systems to support you, it still makes sense to automate the process as much as possible. Even with a totally manual system, making data collection a routine will reduce the perceived burden.
Your attention to this sort of detail will improve customer service and increase customer satisfaction, thus leading to repeat business and referrals. Remember also that good performance reviews make good PR.
Regardless of how frequently data is available for processing into information, there should be a considered decision about how often to do a review – once a day, once a week, once a month, once a quarter. Frequency may very between functions. I wouldn’t recommend less than once a quarter for a routine review to check that performance is on track. This is the opportunity to remedy any deviations or re-align plans and budget to changing circumstances.
Ideally, leading up to the next round of strategic planning, there should be an in-depth review of the year’s performance and its possible impact on forecasts for later years. This information feeds into the next occurrence of “Decide what to do”. This action can also be triggered during the year, if circumstances demand it.
Review of the external influences
This is another aspect which is best scanned throughout the year in case of significant changes. However, in time for the next round of strategic planning, a serious survey is necessary. PESTLE is a useful tool for this purpose – consider the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental influences on your company and industry. Understanding the broader picture will help “Decide what to do”.
What about Business Adept Cards?
This part of the planning process, as you will have gathered is very much about research and data processing. It is to be hoped that weaknesses will be highlighted in the figure-work. However, it isn’t always straight-forward and there will certainly be times when the use of BA Cards will provide a shortcut to the resolution of an issue.
For example in a large organisation, if a particular product line is not performing well, the root cause may not be immediately obvious. It is likely that each functional area will blame another for the failure. A BA Cards Problem Analysis would help to pinpoint the root cause without further time-consuming numerical analysis.
For any size of business, if a personality clash is causing underperformance, a BA Cards Relationship Analysis would clarify a route to resolving it.
In most situations, BA Cards and a bit of imagination will find a way forward.
This the final blog in the strategic planning series. The next step is to do it all again:
- Decide what to do
- Determine how to do it
- Do it
- Review it
Remember the BA Card system can enhance every stage of the planning process.
Why not experience for yourself the benefit of using Business Adept Cards? FREE TRIAL
Strategy And Planning