Strategic Planning: Process Design and Action Guidelines

Strategic Planning: Process Design and Action Guidelines

Within the organization, leadership determined a strategic plan was needed for the institution to continue being a leader in its industry. An investigative team was assembled and the organization's strengths, weaknesses, outside competition, and threats were assessed. Goals were set. Mission and vision statements were drafted and guiding values were written. A rough draft with a wide range of ideals was tested and its results documented. Threats were analyzed and an outline of the strategic plan has been made, so now it is time to look at forming the team who will put the plan into black and white. This phase of the project is known as the process design and action guidelines.

The main reason given is so the organization will begin the process now to thrive in the future as an industry leader. A few other advantages have been mentioned such as lowering costs and finding more efficient ways of doing business. And there are other reasons for the plan such as ensuring product consistency for the next 20 or more years, effective use of all resources, and transparency within the organization – everyone knows why they are there, what their purpose is, and how they are going to achieve those purposes. And that is the reason behind the process design and action guidelines – to encourage the people and clarify what they do and who does it.

To design the process a key final team must be assembled. Investing in the right people is essential to the plan's final processes and implementation. At the same time leadership should plan for reaping the benefits of their efforts. The plan will streamline some processes as well as open the door to new opportunities within the organization. These positive benefits must be addressed and not neglected.

During the design and action phase, leadership should encourage tough questions and the right answers found. Take time to ensure the right questions are being asked so the reason behind the plan and its goals are being addressed within the wording of the plan. Two main focuses should be addressed within the design and actions for it to be a balanced plan that people will support – the human or personal factor and the professional aspects. People are emotional beings and generally come to work exposing two sides of their personality – personal and professional. Their professional side is the responsible, knowledgeable, and business side. It is needed for them to be a good employee. On the other hand, their human side has the emotional characteristics that make them a person. It's the side with their passion and drive. It's the side that makes the individual easy to get along with and fun to work beside. The plan must address both sides of the employee to get the best results. Both needs to be taken into account when creating the action guidelines or the plan's results will be lackluster.

The rough draft experiments will be invaluable with guiding many of the tactics used in the plan and the overall action steps. Each category will require different strategies, methods of action, and resources for accomplishment. The team assembled must be able to adapt to each phase and be flexible with their processes.

With all that overview in mind, let's look at the five phases involved in the process design and action guidelines.

1. Realizing the Purpose

The first phase begins with one question that needs to be answered involving why the team is being assembled and defines what they are supposed to achieve as a team. This is the question leadership must ask itself -- "Why does this institution want to take the steps now to thrive in the future?"

With that answer the leadership then can justify making a commitment to obtain all the needed resources to implement the completed plan. Among the resources obtained will be the final team to assemble the plan and begin its implementation. Leadership should ensure their commitment to the plan is well known and that all the efforts are not meaningless and it will not be "business as usual" once the plan is completed. Assurances should be given to everyone involved that the plan will be implemented in its full force and has their 100 percent backing. This will give the plan its needed integrity and the team the authority it needs to implement the finished product.

Once a team has been established, the questions leadership should provide answers for to guide the team in their processes are:

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  • Why I personally believe in this plan and established the overall goals
  • Why I am willing to commit the needed resources to implement this plan
  • What I see that is going on in the industry that requires us to implement this strategic plan

So that everyone is on the same field playing the same game as a team, the beginning phase questions the team needs to answer among themselves should include:

  • What is your motivation for being a part of this team
  • Why should we consider this a team effort
  • How will this plan ensure we are a driving force as an organization 20 years from now
  • Why should we care about this plan

2. The Team

Assembling the team to create the process design and action guidelines is critical to the plan's process. As mentioned with assembling the investigation team, "yes" men are not needed for the job. But neither are people who are in the "good ole boy" club. And this is not the time for friendships to be the main recommendation for being on the team. This is a time where leadership must use a premeditated and calculated approach to their selection process. The team does not need someone who constantly shoots their mouth off using blanks. If the person who comes to mind is extremely knowledgeable about many of the processes within the plan's outline but is critical and has a negative personality then he is a bad choice and will hinder the plan's process. At this stage, leadership needs the right people, the right knowledge, with the right abilities to work together, and they need to be available at the right time for this to work.

Once again this process will take time and time is something most leaders, managers, and even many employees do not feel they have enough of during a work day. So it's important that the right people are assembled so the process will go smoothly, efficiently, and a quality process emerges from their efforts.

There are eight things that must be considered when selecting individuals for this stage of the plan:

  • They must have knowledge of the processes
  • Must have passion for the organization's goals

The individual must be available

  • They have been involved with the information gathering process
  • People listen to them and respect their input
  • They are a team player and work well with others
  • They must be transparent and trust their teammates

They are a natural leader

  • The individual is articulate

Taking the time to interview and select the proper candidates for the final team will pay huge dividends during the final stages of the plan's development.

Before each team member agrees to be a part of the final strategic plan team, leadership should make sure they understand what is being asked of them. Questions each member should consider are:

  • What do I need to personally bring to the table for the team to succeed?
  • What arrangements do I need to make within my department so that I can fully focus on the final aspects of the plan?
  • Am I capable at this time to meet the demands being placed on me as a final team member?
  • What am I unsure about in this process and need defined?
  • Can I keep my personal agendas in check when writing this plan?

3. Process Design

With a team in place it is now time to design the process to be used within the plan. This is where the team as a whole will need to talk out the methodologies used to achieve the various goals within the plan. Teams should rely on the various subject matter experts within the group to validate the processes being discussed.

The best way to ensure the plan achieves its desired goals is by using the strategic process of backcasting. With this plan design, the strategic plan is written from back to front to ensure success. What this means is the ultimate goal or the leaderships' vision for future success is written at the end of the plan. Team members then ask themselves what the final steps would be to reach that goal. The team then writes those processes and tactics to achieve that final goal. Once that is complete then the team would once again ask themselves, what the next goal would be in the process to get to those final steps. Then they would repeat the process of writing those steps. With this type of process the team ensures the final outcome of the plan will achieve all the goals leadership set for the organization.

With processes agreed upon, a writing plan in place, the team's final steps in this phase need to be addressed. First the team needs to ensure all their documents are in order. Leaders need to ensure the team takes one final look at the industrial changes being implemented within the next 20 years. Changes could have taken place since the initial investigation. Also ensure no other legal changes have been or are being introduced that were not on the table when the initial investigation began. Any overlooked legal considerations could have a major impact on the survivability of the plan and the organization. Once these two areas have been updated, the team should ensure they have considered the entire big picture for the organization. The final consideration is that the roles have been defined within the team so the process is smooth and glitch free.

4. Undertaking Writing it Right

As the saying goes, this is where the rubber starts meeting the road. This is where the plan starts to be strategically put together. This is where a true roughing of the plan begins. Goals are placed within the plan and engagement begins. Tactics are discussed and strategic ones are tested in the "real world." Remember the plan is a draft so the wording does not have to be precise and some of the tactics can have questions that area managers need to address and answer for the team. There will be some tactics that will need to be scrutinized by the people actually responsible for the task, and that is the reason behind the draft – there will be questions and this is where the team brings in the outside resources to answer those specific questions brought out in the draft.

The final outcome of this phase is a solid draft of the plan is written that includes tactics to be immediately implemented, tactics to be implemented within five years, identified key goals, and a timeline for implementation of tactics. Also within the rough draft are the individuals responsible for the different tactics.

5. Planning Implementation

The final act is implementation. This will involve the entire organization. This is where leadership's placement of strategic people on the final team pays big dividends. The final team will be responsible for broadcasting the final plan and now is the time for the final outreach before implementation. Now is the time for the team to include as many people as is feasibly possible with the final review to receive their input. Input makes everyone feel they had a part in the plan and goes a long way towards buy-in and ownership in the plan. Meetings must take place. Team members should take the plan to the various departments and give overall explanations and highlight the key areas where that particular department is involved. Their comments, suggestions, criticisms, and praises should be documented and their names written down beside their remarks. Many of these names can be utilized when making the final presentation of the plan before the whole organization.

With everyone's input, the team goes back to the drawing board with the draft that now includes suggestions, ideas, resources and any other input that adds value to the plan. By utilizing the input from the organizational members, the team is ensuring a highly successful plan's integration into the organization. And this is where huge dividends are paid with organizational ownership.

The key for organizational goals to be met and for a smooth transition to the plan's implementation is key member's visibility within the organization. Leadership cannot be invisible and expect employee's to trust the changes taking place through the plan. People do not like change and resist it. Team members must address change as a good thing – good for the people and good for the organization. With their fears being addressed, implementation will go a lot easier.