Business Adept Blogs

Strategy and Planning – 2 Determine how to do it

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. In step 2, functional departments are given the task of finding ways to implement strategic decisions, possibly introducing change while managing existing operations.

It was noted that the Business Adept Cards system was designed to support the strategic planning process by adding intuition and subconscious knowledge, thus enabling speedy focus of effort on those areas that promise the best returns.

This blog examines more closely the 2nd step in the cycle – Determine how to do it, ie whatever has been decided in step 1. I’ll also give examples of how the BA Cards can be used to identify the best ways and means.

Step 2    Determine how to do it

This part of the process depends very much on what “it” is and whether it has a definite green light or merely a remit for feasibility study. Another influencing factor is familiarity – is it an ongoing operation or a new venture? So the options are:

  1. no change
  2. modification to existing operations
  3. radical change to existing operations
  4. new venture

Options a) and b) are most likely to have been agreed, while c) and d) may be either agreed or designated for feasibility study.

a)    No change

With any well-established and profitable business, I’d expect strategic plans to leave a large part, if not all, of it unchanged. Nevertheless, it is still worth considering how well the operation is being performed. Are there any inefficiencies that could be corrected or could quality be improved? How well are we maintaining relationships with customers and suppliers? Paying attention to these types of issue will help to ensure that the business remains profitable.

You will already know the answers to such questions but are you in denial about any developing weaknesses? A quick and easy way to check is to use the Business Adept Cards system. A Problem Analysis for each aspect will tap into your subconscious knowledge and reveal any underlying problem. Just ask “is there a problem in this area?”.

Once you know the problem, you can take advantage of the opportunity to improve.

b)    Modification to existing operations

I include in this category things that can be accomplished within the year of the business plan, eg:

  • revisions to the pricing structure [not just minor adjustments which happen at any time]
  • rebalancing the product/service portfolio within the same commercial sector
  • increasing production without major new investment
  • increasing sales through marketing techniques that do not need major investment
  • negotiating deals with existing major suppliers or customers
  • operational improvements that are minimally disruptive and require minimal investment

What counts as minor or major will vary considerably, depending on the size and nature of the industry concerned.

Whatever the modification, the task here is to work out precisely what should be done, what resources are required and how to implement the change.  The output from this step for this category includes:

  • plans for each change – specification, resource requirements, timescale, migration plan, budget, responsibilities, project milestones
  • a comprehensive business plan summarising the above
  • a governance scheme detailing hierarchies of responsibility and authority, and reporting protocols

This may seem overly complex for a small business and in many cases responsibility will be down to one person. Nevertheless, a simplified version of the above can prove very helpful in keeping projects on track.

What can also help is the Business Adept Cards system. It can accelerate the whole process of determining how to manage these changes with minimum effort and disruption. For example:

  • Problem Analysis of any change “what is the main problem here?” can identify the key underlying issue, hindrance and possible solution.
  • SWOT Analysis will help understand the nature of before and after scenarios
  • Relationship Analysis clarifies personal interactions or how well new practices will gel with old

All layouts will help focus on what is most important and avoid abortive effort.

c)     Radical change to existing operations

The distinction of this category is that:

  1. major investment may be required
  2. the change may cause significant disruption to current operations
  • for each change there is likely to be a choice of options on how to proceed
  1. the change project may extend beyond the business plan year
  2. the final decision on whether to proceed may yet to be made

The similarity is that the business operations are familiar. The requirements of this stage of the planning process are fundamentally the same, too, though more complex. A business case must be prepared for each proposed change, even those agreed in Step 1. Because the changes are radical and therefore costly, businesses will want to control costs carefully and track how well predicted benefits have been achieved.

The key outputs for this category at this stage are:

  • A business case for each change – specification, resource requirements (including training), timescale, options analysis, migration plan, responsibilities, project milestones, cost/benefit analysis, budget
  • a strategy plan covering all the years of the proposed project and including scenario plans of different project mixes – what happens if we do this project and not that one?
  • a comprehensive business plan summarising the next financial year
  • a governance scheme detailing hierarchies of responsibility and authority, and reporting protocols
  • a decision on which change projects to implement

Although this may seem like a daunting prospect, the effort required is in proportion to the size of the business. Following this process can help avoid costly errors of judgement. It is a useful self-discipline.

The Business Adept Cards system can help with each element of the process in the ways mentioned for b) above with the addition of the Option Comparison layout, which may add insights to the task of choosing between methodology options or projects.

BA Cards provide ideas, focus and clarification.

d)     New venture

This category has all the characteristics of c) with the addition of breaking new territory. There may be new techniques to learn, new resources to manage, new suppliers and new customers – all with their own unique idiosyncrasies.

A key issue will be whether the project team has the skills and experience to manage the venture effectively. A Business Adept Cards SWOT Analysis will provide an assessment.

The key outputs for this category at this stage are essentially the same as for c) above, except that is more likely that only one significant new venture will be tackled at a time. It may not be competing against other similar prospects but a business case will still be required to justify the investment.

Decision Time

In Step 2 of the planning cycle, the decisions are concerned with:

  1. timings, values and specific choices
  2. methodology, process and systems
  3. choices between competing change projects
  4. whether or not to commit to new ventures.

For every category the end result must be a clear specification of what to do, how to do it, and when.

Next Steps

In other blogs I address exactly how the BA Card system can enhance the next stages of the planning process:

  • Do it
  • Review it

Why not experience for yourself the benefit of using Business Adept Cards?  FREE TRIAL


Laura Dziaszyk, BA Cards Co-creator

Strategy And Planning