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Contributed by Jim Thiemens

Strategy is a continual process to clearly establish how an organization will accomplish its Goal, close on issues and opportunities, and achieve improvements in the future.

Building that Strategy (Strategic Planning) is often considered a mystery and is viewed as a large bound document that is completed by top management and a consultant in a closet. The completed document usually resides on a bookshelf collecting dust and viewed with an attitude of ďIím glad thatís done now I can go do my jobĒ.

While a Strategic Plan is vital to the welfare of an organization, to be effective it needs to be simple, easy to communicate, and understood by everyone in the organization. If it is not communicated and understood by those doing the work and producing the products it is not likely to be implemented. So what are the steps to completing and implementing a strategic plan? They are:

  • AN ASSESSMENT OF CURRENT REALITY – This can be as simple as an interview with everyone to assess what each one believes they are doing or contributing, how is it working, what is the quality of teamwork and what would they fix if they could.  It’s nothing more than “what it is like now?
  • ESTABLISHING THE GOAL – This could be a simple reaffirming of the current Goal or making a new one, but needs to be in the form of: “What are we trying to accomplish (Future Reality)”. This should be an overarching statement that resonates with all. 
  • ESTABLISH RESPONSIBILITIES AND ACCOUNTABILITIES – This is where agreements are reached as to what are the main elements that need to be completed to achieve the goal and who is responsible for each element and how  the various elements or responsibilities are accountable to each other.   In the area of accountability, the question becomes: “what do I need from others to do my job and what is my contribution to the rest of the organization to achieve the Goal”
  • IMPLEMENTATION – A strategic plan is a very large general agreement and its implementation is a series of specific agreements on an annual basis -  the Annual Business Plan.  This is a group of financial and written agreements to target measurable financial results and written action objectives aimed at achieving a future proactive position in chosen areas. 
  • MANAGEMENT REVIEW – one of the most important things in the entire process is the review of results with all those involved.  This is where findings or outcomes are assessed and evaluated and changes can be made that provide for continuous improvements in the future.  This is the place where the process of strategic planning often breaks down for if these communications and corresponding reality changes don’t happen or are poorly done; the result is confusion and a return to an earlier reality. 

Developing a Strategy is a process of sharing reality, providing clarity and effective communication, while achieving understanding throughout the organization.