One Page Strategic Plan Overview

One Page Strategic Plan Overview

An overview of the strategic decisions and content you need to capture on a one-page strategic plan for your business

What is Strategy?

I get companies contacting me out of the blue wanting help with their strategic plans. Typically, they are CEO’s interested in learning more about the strategic planning methodology I described in my book Business Execution for RESULTS, or they want me to take a look at their strategic plans and give them some feedback.

Unfortunately, most leaders I speak with don’t really understand what strategy is. They think they have a strategy, but usually, all they have done is an exercise in financial goal setting. Goal setting is important, but setting numerical targets is not a strategy. We all want to grow, but growth is not strategy. We all want to improve quality, but quality improvement is not strategy. We all want to be more efficient, but efficiency improvement is not strategy. Yes, we want to be better than our competitors, but being better than our competitors is not strategy either. Bigger, better, faster, cheaper is not strategy!

Strategic planning is not an exercise in financial forecasting or filling out boxes on a planning template. Strategy is understanding how your industry is likely to play out and getting very clear on the key strategic moves your company needs to make to establish a competitive advantage and position your company for future success. Your long term growth and financial outcomes will be a function of the strategic moves you make.

Strategic planning is about establishing a meaningful point of difference in your industry that you can preserve. However, nothing lasts forever, so you need to keep innovating and re-establishing your point of difference.

Strategic planning requires trade-offs. You cannot be everything to everybody. You cannot just blindly copy the moves of your competitors and hope to win. You have to figure out what to say “yes” to, and what to say “no” to. You make clear cut choices about how you will compete, and then allocate your time and resources accordingly.

Balance the short term with the long term.

To be an effective strategic leader, you need to operate with what I call “Dual Vision”. I explain this concept using the analogy of the telescope and the microscope. A strategic leader needs to have:

  • One eye looking through the microscope, looking closely at your business as it is right now. “Improving what is”
  • One eye looking through the telescope, looking out to the future on the horizon. “Creating what will be”

Most leaders are pretty good at the first part; looking through the microscope. They choose projects and create goals to “improve what is”. They take action to improve their current operating model.

Where many leaders struggle is looking through the telescope. “Creating what will be” means making wise strategic moves to set your company up for future success. In some cases, these strategic moves may require you to forget the past and reshape your business to compete more effectively in the future.

You need to improve what is, whilst simultaneously creating the future. And that’s a paradox, isn’t it? But that’s the key to effective strategic leadership. Many companies struggle with this. They keep doing what made them successful in the past, and under-invest in what they need to become in order to be successful in the future.

Get everyone on the same page.

In order to communicate what needs to be done right now, as well as the moves we need to make in the future, we need a strategic plan. Here are my criteria for what I want in a strategic plan:

  • Fits on one page, so that it forces us to be clear and succinct in our decision making. We really do want “everyone to be on the same page”
  • Shared with everyone in our organization so every person knows: who we are as a company, where we are going, and how we are going to get there. There should be no excuses for not knowing what the company strategy is
  • Cascades our strategy down throughout our organization so everyone can see how their role and their goals contribute to the organization’s success
  • Customizable, so whatever methodology you prefer you can adapt the format of the strategic plan to suit your needs

The 3 elements: Vision, Strategy, and Execution

All methodologies have their merits, but most of the popular small-medium sized business methodologies I’ve studied seem to focus on vision and goal setting. That’s all well and good, but there’s not a lot of what I would consider to be actual “strategy”.

Here are the key elements I cover with clients to capture and share with everyone in the organization to provide clarity, alignment, and focus. There are 3 main elements:

1. Vision

Core Values:

Core Values are the behaviors that define your culture. Core Values are clear statements of how you expect every person in your organization to act, regardless of their role. Core Values provide a moral compass for your people. They can help your people to decide on the right course of action, regardless of the challenge they face.

Core Purpose:

You need to give your people a compelling reason to work for you, beyond simply earning money. A Core Purpose gives meaning to the work that you do. Your Core Purpose is not “what” you do. It is not “how” you do it either. Your Core Purpose is “why” you do what you do. Your Core Purpose transcends whatever your current product or service offerings may be, and speaks to your organization’s passion. It speaks to the difference your organization wants to make to the lives of the people it touches.

BHAG:

A BHAG or “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” is a term coined by business author Jim Collins. Before we start the process of strategic planning, we need a goal. A meaningful and compelling goal. A vision for the future that ideally inspires everyone in the organization. A BHAG does not necessarily mean your organization needs to be as big as possible, it’s about building a “great” organization, however you define greatness.

2. Strategy

Target Market Customer:

Effective companies focus their marketing efforts to appeal to and serve a specific target market customer. Your target market is the centre of your marketing “bull’s eye”. It’s the sweet spot that you aim for with your product & service design and marketing communications. It does not necessarily mean that you will only sell to these people or that they will make up the majority of your sales volume, but your business strategy and marketing endeavours will be much more effective if you focus on a clearly defined target audience.

Value Discipline:

Value Discipline is the way that you deliver value to your target customer. It’s also the skeleton of your strategy. You choose a Value Discipline based on who your ideal target customer is and what your ideal target customer values most. There are 3 generic strategies (Value Disciplines). Do you know what game you are playing? Are you playing to win?

Core vs. Non-Core Activities and Offerings:

Strategy requires making wise choices about what you need to start doing, keep doing, and most importantly what you need to stop doing, or not get into at all. You need to choose which Products, Services, Activities, and Offerings are Core to your strategy, and which are Non-Core when it comes to implementing your Value Discipline.

Strategic Position:

Strategic Position is the concept you want your customers to think of when they hear your brand name – a piece of mental real estate that you can “own” in the mind of your target customer. Your Strategic Position is “a statement of who you are”.

Key Benefits:

There are 3 types of benefits, functional, economic, and emotional. Functional benefits describe what your product or service does for your customers. These are your offering’s attributes, or “the job to be done”. Economic benefits describe what your product or service means to your customers in terms of time or money. Economic benefits appeal to your customer’s head, his or her rational part. Emotional benefits describe the way your product or service makes the customer feel. Emotional benefits appeal to your customer’s heart, which is why they are the most powerful benefits.

Brand Promise:

Brand Promise is the blunt, overt, compelling offer you’re going to put in front of your target market customers. It is derived from and supported by, your three Key Benefits. Your Brand Promise tells your target customer what they can expect to receive from your brand.

Long Term (3 to 5 Year) Strategic Moves:

Start by performing high-level industry analysis. Professor Michael Porter’s 5 Competitive Forces analysis (Competitors, New Entrants, Substitutes, Suppliers, Customers), and PEST analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological) will help you to analyse the key issues impacting your industry. Doing this will help you identify the major “Opportunities” and “Threats” facing your business as well as potential strategic moves you could take to address these issues.

We can’t do everything though. We need to prioritize and focus our efforts. We need to choose the top 3 big strategic moves you will make within the next 3 to 5 years to position your organization for future industry success. You can start working on these major initiatives now, but they are very large in scope and will probably take several years to fully implement.

3. Execution

Numerical Targets:

Numerical Targets are milestones aligned to your 3 to 5 Year Strategic Moves. They measure the successful execution of your strategy. They can also measure your progress toward your BHAG. Ideally, you want to choose numbers that everyone in the company understands and could physically count if they chose to.

SWOT Analysis:

SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. SWOT is an assessment of your current reality. Strengths and Weaknesses are internal – things unique to your organization. Opportunities and Threats are external – things in your marketplace you could take action on. SWOT should be updated every quarter to ensure what you have stated is an accurate reflection of your current operating environment. The pace of change is increasing, and you need to keep ahead of it. Your updated SWOT (reality assessment) provides the context from which you will then choose the most important Strategic Projects to work on.

Current Strategic Projects (Big Rocks):

Strategic Projects are the top 3 Projects your organization will allocate people, time and resources to implement in the near term (typically each quarter). Some methodologies call them big rocks for quarterly priorities. These Projects are strategic in nature because they are aligned to your 3 to 5 Year Strategic Moves and address one or more issues contained in your SWOT analysis.

Metrics (Key Performance Indicators):

Metrics (also called Key Performance Indicators or KPIs) are what you use to measure the performance of every functional area of your organization; the things you do every day to create leads, make sales, provide your products and services, keep your customers happy, grow cash and make profits. We call this stuff “Business As Usual”. Once you determine the Metrics for every functional area, you should be able to distil a smaller subset of Metrics that you deem to be “critical success factors” – the most important drivers of your current operating model.

Getting everyone on the same page requires going through a disciplined strategic thinking and decision-making process to answer all of these questions, and then we capture them all on a “One Page Strategic Plan”. And yes, you really can get all these answers onto one page.

Quarterly Strategic Reviews.

Strategic planning should be an ongoing process, not an annual event. Things can change in your operating environment so quickly that the traditional annual offsite strategic planning session is seldom sufficient. By all means, go off-site once a year to conduct high-level industry analysis and review and update your long-term (3 to 5 year) strategic moves, but then choose project milestones that are due in the near term and make sure to review and update your strategic plan every quarter. 90 Days is far enough away to get some meaningful things done if you get your team really focused, but the finish line is close enough to create a real sense of urgency.

Think of strategic execution as a series of 90-day sprints. Use the strategic planning process to get clear on the most important projects that can be completed in the coming quarter, and then put your head down and sprint for 90 days.

Then at the end of each quarter, stop and conduct what I call a Quarterly Strategic Review. You stop for a day every quarter to review your progress and learn from it. You ask questions like: Did we hit our metrics this quarter? Did we execute our strategic projects effectively? What did we learn this quarter? What will we start doing? What will we stop doing? What will we do better next quarter?

You also stick your head up to look around and identify any changes in your strategic environment. You make sure the direction you are heading in is still the right one, or make course corrections as necessary. You redo your SWOT analysis. Then you choose new strategic projects for the coming quarter. This ensures your strategic plan’s continued relevance with the competitive environment and re-aligns everyone to the new strategic projects.

Now you are ready to charge off on another 90-day sprint!

It should take you no more than a day per quarter to go through this disciplined process. It’s definitely well worth investing this time to review and update your One Page Strategic Plan and get everyone back “on the same page”.

Do you have everyone on the same page?

Phew! You may be looking at this process and thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot of work!” You’re right. But this is how you get RESULTS.

I know that this process works because thousands of companies have gotten good results with it. The process works. But it doesn’t do the work for you. You have to add the discipline to follow the process. You have to do the hard work of analysis and decision making to create a winning strategy. You have to turn that strategy into action every day.

Yes, it’s hard work, but it’s totally worth it.

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Until next time…
Stephen

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