Top Strategic Planning Process Steps

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien
 

These days it is hard to ignore the dragons. COVID-19 qualifies, but it is not alone. As this is written, California (where Morrison is headquartered) is facing countless fires from record heat as well as dry thunderstorms with ligthning strikes. The resulting fires have reduced our air quality to the world’s worst at a time of harvest for many California crops, exacerbating labor availability for agribusiness and other industries.

While I doubt many had “global pandemic and lockdown followed by unbreathable air” on their list of contingencies, some of the predictable impacts should have been. Critical business inputs such as labor, transportation, supply chain, internet capacity, and key staffing availability can be disrupted by many things, and general approaches should be considered in any strategic plan.

Books have been written about strategic planning and it can seem overly complicated, but it is critical to long-term success. Focus on these:

1. Take a hard look at where you are. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your markets, where are they, and what will impact demand and prices? How secure are your needed inputs?

As bad as the 2008 recession was, and as tough as the current recession is, no one has stopped eating by my observation, which is a blessing to our food industry and agribusiness clients. But people do change what they eat and where they eat it, and economic factors impacting labor, supply chain, and more need to be considered so that you have a firm grasp of your opportunities and potential threats. The SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is the starting point of effective change. 

2. Decide what you want to be. While some organizations want to continue to be what they are – or haven’t planned to be anything else – that is the one thing you can be certain won’t happen.

Changes in the overall business and consumer environments will force you to either change or lose ground. Take the lead in deciding what your changes can be rather than letting them happen. 

3. Examine the gaps between where you are and what you want to be. Look at everything you currently are and the strengths and weaknesses you identify above. Focus on the biggest factors first. For example, if you need to change your product distribution (e.g., more online to keep up with demand), put more energy into that than whether you need a new logo. 

4. Develop a plan. This is the second toughest aspect of strategic planning. You need to lay out how best to fill the gaps between what you are and what you want to be. Along with those needs, the plan should include organizational development needs, leadership training, plans for change management, financial modelling of various scenarios, and succession planning for leadership and/or ownership. 

5. Execute the plan. This is the hardest part, in no small measure because things never go exactly according to plan. Plan for that. And dragons, or at least understanding that one may raise its head. Know you have to review and revise your plans regularly, but keep your focus on the big things.

For more ideas, or just to bounce things around, please contact the Morrison team. Our team of Business & Accounting and People Solutions advisors have helped many organizations develop and execute plans that positively changed the course of their businesses, even in these crazy times. 

About the Author

+Brent Morrison is the founding principal at Morrison, providing business valuations, business planning (including budgeting, cash flow forecasting, and strategic planning), feasibility studies, recruitment, interim executive CFO services, competitive grant writing and special projects that don't fit into any conventional category. You can contact Brent directly at bmorrison@morrisonco.net or via telephone at (530) 809-4669.

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