10 ways a well-thought-out strategic planning process will benefit your small or mid-sized business
I’ve looked for stats on how many small and mid-sized businesses actually have a real strategic plan but haven’t been able to find any. So I’ve had to guess and my guess is “very few.” If I’m right, it means a huge number of smaller organizations miss out on the benefits of going through a well-thought-out strategic planning process.
SMEs should be nimble
To be fair, there are different schools of thought on whether smaller businesses need a strategic plan. In a Fast Company article, the author provides reasons why Small Businesses Should Scrap Strategic Planning* (that’s the title of this FC article). These amounted to:
not enough time to do it,
the high cost of taking senior people off revenue-producing work,
too small a payoff from too large an investment of time and effort, and
an SME’s vaunted agility means any formal plan would be short-lived and, therefore, worthless.
Instead, the author advises smaller companies to ‘plan in the hallway.’ That conjures up an interesting picture of ‘nimble’ executives making decisions on the fly as they race from one crisis to another:
Fred: I’m glad I ran into you two. What do you think of the new red bobbly-wobbly?
Isabelle: I don’t know, doesn’t the colour undermine our pigmentation strategy?
Bubba: I don't think so. Our customers have been expecting a change.
Fred: It’s decided then. All bobbly-wobblies will be red from his point forward. See you guys later
But not at the expense of good decision making
Silly, yes. But you get the picture. Strategic decisions deserve more than passing consideration. Sure, an SME has to be nimble. In fact, the ability to make decisions quickly is a true competitive advantage. But strategic decisions made without proper consideration can be disastrous.
I work with a lot of SMEs. I’ve run a couple, too. I know what it means to be up to your eyeballs in too much to do. But I also know how important it is to focus on something bigger than this hour’s biggest problem.
Many SME leaders are skeptical about the value of investing the time. Time is, next to cash, the scarcest of scarce commodities. But, without exception, every leader I know who has gone through a well-thought-out planning process, has been delighted with the outcome.
Strategic planning and SMEs: The benefits are huge
Based on my experience, a well-thought-out strategic planning process will benefit a small or mid-sized business by:
engaging decision-makers and other employees in an enjoyable, educational, and very productive process,
uncovering information essential to good decision-making (through customer and employee research),
clarifying or articulating the organization’s purpose as well as its mission and vision.
providing a forum for identifying and prioritizing opportunities and challenges,
providing a forum for discussing and building consensus on issues, strategies, goals, and objectives,
focusing attention on a manageable number of strategic priorities,
providing employees with a clear picture of where the business is headed and how they fit in,
improving implementation with a champion for each strategic initiative and a lead for each project,
aligning individuals, teams, departments, and divisions with business priorities and strategic initiatives, and
encouraging better communication within the company and with external stakeholders.
There are more but hopefully these make the point. In the final analysis every SME will benefit from a sound strategic planning process, and from the clarity that a thoughtful strategic plan provides.
*Kaihan Krippendorff, Fast Company