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Strategic Planning is not just about what you do, it is also about what you choose not to do. Your strategy determines where you allocate your financial and personnel resources and what you grow into becoming. The goal in strategic planning is to lead an executive team through the stages of the planning process and to help them engage in an in-depth analysis in order to surface growth alternatives and choose the best path for the company. As a facilitator, Ken strives to maximize each person's contributions to the team effort to develop a strategic plan that everyone understands and buys into.


The purpose of strategic planning is to help an executive team clearly look at their options for growing and to select a path that they can all support and align around. Good strategic planning requires a deep understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the company, the opportunities and threats of the marketplace and the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. Difficult choices need to be made about the focus of sales and marketing activities and how to position and deliver the services you choose to provide. Correct positioning leads to the selection of synergistic activities that support each other and provide a solid foundation for growth.

Ken's Five-Stage Approach To Strategic Planning

Stage 1: Clarifying Mission, Vision, Values, and Goals

The values, vision, and mission of your company are like the foundation of your building. We need to build a strong foundation before we can build the building. We begin strategic planning by identifying where your company now is, where it wants to go, why it is important to go there, and determining how fast you want to get there. A lot of companies are relatively shortsighted. They focus on how to maximize short-term profits and sales in the next quarter or this year.

In this first stage of the strategic planning process we will discuss how to build your company in a way that will distinguish it from competition over the longer term and will help you achieve a desirable end goal at some point in the future. It is important to understand what you are trying to build over what period of time because depending on how fast you want to grow you need to do different things. A business can only grow so fast on internally generated funds. If it wants to grow faster, it has to take on investment capital or borrow money. Questions and issues addressed include the following:

  • What does our current behavior as a company say about our current mission, vision and values?
  • What are the things that are unmovable about our firm that we don't want to change over time as we grow?
  • What are the things that distinguish our company from other companies today?
  • What aspects of our mission, vision, and values do we want or need to reinvent as we grow?
  • What is our big, hairy, audacious goal?
  • What is the 20-year plan, and what does that mean about the 5-year, 3-year, and 1-year plans?
  • How fast do we want to grow? Why?
  • How big is big enough?
  • What is the exit plan, if any?

Stage 2: External Market Assessment

In the second stage of strategic planning we examine what is going on in the firms' market, industry, and with the competition in order to understand the opportunities and threats in the external environment. As part of this process we identify the major firms the firm competes with and describe their differences from those firms. We profile the customers and examine what is going on environmentally. Questions and issues addressed include the following:

  • Are we in a business that is subject to a lot of external regulation?
  • Are we in a market place that is growing or shrinking?
  • Are we in an industry that is growing or shrinking?
  • What external factors are likely to impact our business?
  • Do we need to reinvent ourselves in order to grow as quickly as we want to grow?
  • What are the best companies in our industry doing right?
  • What are the things that are making some firms more successful than others?
  • What are the key success factors?

Stage 3: Internal Assessment

The purpose of conducting an internal assessment is to identify the firm's internal strengths and weaknesses in order to understand what things make the company effective and what about internal operations need to be strengthened. We examine what is working and what is not working with an eye to leveraging the firm's strengths and minimizing the impact of any area of weaknesses. Questions and issues addressed include the following:

  • What does our company do well and what does it not do so well?
  • What are our company's strengths that we want to emphasize as we grow?
  • To take those strengths to the max, what would have to change and what would that look like?
  • How do the various parts of our business reinforce each other?
  • Who do we need to hire to be the company we want to become?
  • What are the most important things we need to do better in order for us to achieve our goals?
  • How profitable are we?
  • Are we more or less profitable than the competition?
  • How strong is our balance sheet?
  • How good is our credit?
  • Are we offering a unique product or service or are we a commodity in the mind or our customers?
  • What, if any, barriers to entry can we construct?
  • How do we organize our business to make it difficult for people to compete with us?

Stage 4: Assessing Alternative Growth Paths

In this stage we identify alternative ways to proceed to achieve the kind of growth the firm wants to achieve?  Questions and issues addressed include the following:

  • Does our company need to open new markets, develop new products, or make acquisitions to meet our growth targets?
  • Alternatively, does our company need to take what it is doing and focus on it more intensely in order to become the market leader?
  • How do we evaluate each of those growth strategies in light of our assessment of our internal strengths and weaknesses?
  • How do we evaluate each of these growth strategies in light of the external opportunities and threats?

Stage 5: Execution Plan

In the final stage of developing a strategic plan, we examine what it means to execute the strategy and goals that have been agreed upon. The goal is to come up with a clear understanding of what has to be different from what the firm already does. Working backwards from the end goal, we determine what has to happen in 5 years, 3 years and 1 year . Then specific goals with clear metrics are set for the first year on a quarterly basis. Action steps to acheive these goals are written down and responsibility for accomplishing these goals is assigned to members of the team.  Questions and issues addressed include the following:

  • In order to hit our goals for this year, what do we have to do in each of the next four quarters?
  • Who in the organization should be held accountable for accomplishing each of these goals?
  • Do we have all the personnel and capital resources required to achieve our goals? If not, where will they come from?
  • Can we achieve our goals by doing more of what we are already doing, or do we need to do something new and different?
  • Where does the firm want to focus its energy and effort and where can it reallocate energy and effort from other less important things?
  • Can we afford to say no to some things in order to put more effort into other areas where we have or want to develop a competitive advantage?

Revisiting the Plan A Year Later

Strategic planning is an iterative process. It is advisable to review the plan yearly to determine whether changes need to be made. Questions and issues addressed at this time include the following:

  • How has the world changed?
  • How has the organization changed?
  • Did the firm do what it planned to do?
  • If not, what got in the way?
  • Is the plan still good for the next year, or are some changes needed?