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Delivering real value through astute strategic planning

THERE SEEMS to be renewed vigour to embark on strategic planning sessions by both private sector and third sector organisations, their boards and senior leadership teams observes James Pinchbeck pictured, marketing partner at Streets Chartered Accountants.

Whether this is the result of needing to get to grips with pressures facing them around workforce challenges, supply chain issues, rising costs or simply in what seems to be an ever-changing world, there does seem to be a need to determine the overall direction of travel.

In any event who could disagree with taking time out to spend time on the business as opposed in the business.

The process of strategic planning for some may involve some form of facilitated away day with exec and non-exec directors. For others it might be spending time in the office or working from home to develop a plan.

Regardless of the choice of approach the process for developing the strategic plan invariably is the same. In essence the best starting point is looking at where we are now, and perhaps reflecting on the last plan. By looking at what has been achieved and the challenges faced we can then start to look at what the future looks like.

It’s always useful to consider whether the prior years have been as intended, expected or desired.

Before diving into future strategy it is also good to review or consider the purpose of the organisation. While many will probably look to revisit their ‘mission’, increasingly it seems to be more appropriate and effective to focus on ‘purpose’ – the reason why the organisation exists not just for its customers and those that own or run it but also its wider stakeholders.

In essence; what is the reason for your organisation’s being?

Looking ahead to the future, we start to consider the what, why, when and where of what you are looking to achieve. This tends to be determined by having an in-depth understanding of the environment in which you operate, the opportunities presented and the challenges you face.

Having prepared a draft – which doesn’t have to be War and Peace – many find it useful and beneficial to review this with the wider members of the team, perhaps even external stakeholders. This engagement piece certainly can play a role in honing the plan as well as potentially getting greater buy in to its delivery.

While boards and senior teams may determine and detail an organisation’s overall strategy and promote the same, its delivery – or rather the how you make it happen – tends to be more the work of the wider team.

Looking at the overall approach to strategic planning is always a good thing. If you are embarking on a strategic planning session soon, it is also worth looking at why plans don’t work, don’t come to fruition or deliver what was intended.

There are a number of key reasons why strategic plans don’t deliver. These include the fact that from the start they were ill conceived, even perhaps delusional in their expectations.

This could be down to a failure to really get into the weeds and base it on detailed data and intelligence. It could also be down to the mindset or influence of one or more individual’s overpowering influence and/or personal desires or goals.

Often strategic goals are not realised because they are too broad or ill defined. There is no clear or easily communicated strategic intent or direction. Moreover, there is a long list of desires, activities as opposed a single or limited number of objectives.

Certainly, a failure to communicate effectively and bring the strategy to life can lead to a failure to deliver.  How many plans have been produced that just sit on the bookshelf or in a file on the computer?

It can also be the case that when looking at delivery of the plan, consideration wasn’t really given to the resources and skills needed to deliver it.

There are no doubt many more reasons why strategic plans are not realised but we will finish on the fact that many fail to actually use the plan as a management tool measuring performance and outcomes against the plan on a regular basis.

Streets Chartered Accountants have offices across the East Midlands and East of England, including in Bedford and Luton.

Tel: 01480 373 000 Bedford or 01582 434 324 Luton. Or email info@streetsweb.co.uk.

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