Five Elements of a Strategic Plan
Critical Success Factors
Strategies & Actions for Objectives
Prioritized Implementation Schedule
These elements become the foundation of a workable and achievable
The strategic planning process explores essential questions about
the purpose of being in business. Owners and employees must answer
these essential questions and come up with a consensus on the answers.
Answers to these questions will help in determining the seven important
elements to the strategic plan.
- What is our vision?
- What do we do best?
- What is our business?
- What needs can we satisfy for customers, that competitors cannot
- What kind of image do we want?
- What do we want to be known for?
- What kinds of customers do we want to have?
- How big do we want to be?
- How many products do we want to have?
- What personal needs do we want to satisfy?
- What is our philosophy, ethical and social responsibilities, and
- What value do we want to have to our customers, suppliers and
- Where do we want to be in five years?
Build the Five Elements
Vision: A brief statement describing direction and growth plans.
Based on the answers to the above questions, develop a vision, with
full participation and "buy-in" from all employees and
shareholders. Try to make the vision as concise as possible.
Mission Statement(s): Statement(s) describing the important business
capabilities, based on the customer's needs identified in the market
From the vision statement, themes will emerge and form the mission
statements for the business, and/or the problem or need to be resolved.
The mission statements will become the yardstick for measuring success
In developing mission statements, consider what is really being
sold, i.e. processors of crushed glass for sandblasting applications
are really selling 'expertise' by creating a custom blend of blasting
materials to replace conventional methods, saving money and improving
worker safety and health. link.
For instance, one of the missions that emerge as a theme might
be 'fast response time'. The group might then develop a mission
statement such as: "We shall react immediately to evaluate
new product suggestions or problems customers identify and get the
revised product to market in the shortest possible time frame."
This statement has several objectives that will require more strategies
and action plans to achieve. The objectives in this mission statement
imply: continuing customer feedback, a system for revising or upgrading
products and services, and involvement of operations staff to minimize
lead times for changes.
Critical Success Factors: Key factors to address if a business is
to achieve the vision and mission statement.
Critical success factors might include:
· achieving credibility
· maintaining product quality standards
· finding needed resources
· performing additional market research to stay in touch
with customer needs
· establishing definitions and standards of how a company
serves and listens to all customers;
· establishing internal and external communication standards;
· cost-effective manufacturing and operations;
· establishing a continuous improvement policy for reviewing
and evaluating progress ;
· a system that documents processes so others can be trained;
· buy-in from all levels of the company, which helps understanding
and acceptancethrough participation;
· commitment and willingness from the owner(s) to make
· a financial plan that ensures enough cash flow and sales
revenue to grow the company effectively;
· a plan to deal with downturns should they occur;
· systems and administrative policies to enhance employees
do their jobs effectively.
After developing the list of critical success factors, review them
for practicality and achievability.
Can all critical success factors be incorporated into the work
scope in a cost-effective manner?
Can each be defined in terms of controllable variables? A controllable
variable is one where the business or individual can affect the
outcome. Laws, regulations, interest rates and customer reactions
are uncontrollable variables.
Group brainstorming can help identify ways to make an apparently
uncontrollable variable manageable. Ensure that the group "stands
outside the problem" and views it in a different framework
or opposing perspective. If an uncontrollable variable is controlling
a company, call an open-minded, every-idea-counts brainstorm session
and see what alternative solutions emerge from the group thinking
Document the critical success factors and any contributing factors
or sub-steps necessary to achieve the critical success factors,
such as "being responsive" or "establishing a customer
feedback system". Word the factors with an objective or goal
in mind to achieve the desired outcome.
Put together a representative team to prioritize each objective
critical success factors objectives. Prioritize with respect to
each other and with respect to existing work loads, and daily maintenance
and operations. Re-evaluate the objectives before implementing.
Do they still relate to the vision the company wants to follow or
the problem it needs to solve? The order of importance for implementation
of strategies defined as important by a growing business, are the
ones that follow the path of least resistance towards achieving
cash flow and product acceptance by the market place. if necessary
A major contributor to strategic plan failure
is assigning implementation to employee(s) who never participated
in the planning.
Assign lead responsibility to one person to manage
the planning and implementations. Form teams if necessary. All team
members must prioritize their time to concentrate on higher priority
Strategies & Actions: Steps to Implementation. A strategy
is the definition of how the work will get done and by whom.
Strategy planning may be completed in the large group, or by a
team assigned to the objective. Break down each critical success
factor objective or goal into a series of strategies for implementation,
by priority. For each strategy, define the specific action plans
or tasks required to implement. An action would be defining what
customers think would be desirable to have as part of the company's
enhanced services. Another action would be calling customers to
ask their opinions.
A strategy could be designing a new customer service system or
other customer interaction to learn about what they think of the
product and service. Or to collect ideas about how to make the product
more functional, or provide better or more useful service.
Prioritized Implementation Schedule. Prioritize the critical
success factor objectives and corresponding strategies/actions in
order of importance.
Document a schedule, including start dates, milestone dates and
anticipated completion dates for each strategy.
Summary and Final Recommendations
This collection of objectives, strategies, actions
and responsibilities should become the foundation of a company's
business plan. But a real business plan is not a static document.
Together with an executive summary, history of the product or project,
management team bios, marketing plans and a budget, it is now an
action plan. These plans may also be important for potential investors.
One major contributor to business failure is lack of focus on a
single direction where all participants are working towards the
same goals. Another contributor is losing focus on that direction
and not exercising the discipline and management leadership to implement
the plan as decided. A third contributor to failure is saying yes
to every opportunity or changing the plan midway without determining
how it will effect the current plan, priorities, resources and the
ability to deliver on the promise.