Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Strategic planning and the process of strategy 3: quarterly, annual and five year planning

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 11, 2012

This is my third installment in a series on the strategic process and on strategic decision making per se (see Part 1: putting strategy in perspective and Part 2: goals and benchmarks.)

I took a very products-and-services, and market-facing approach to strategy and the strategic process in Part 2, where I wrote of strategy in terms of:

• Systematically distinguishing a business from its competition, in the eyes and minds of its customers and potential customers, and
• As a source of greater value for what is offered to them.
• And I discussed strategy as working inward from an initial focus on any differentiating sources of unique value that might be developed in the products and services themselves as offered,
• And going from there to create and sustain more back-end and operational sources of unique value.
• For all of that, unique value and value per se are and should be defined from the perspective of the consumer and the end user – they decide what offers value to them and they are the ultimate source of any revenue generated and of any profits achieved.
• And more internal-to-the-organization sources of value, as for example in improving operational efficiency, would be of value for their capacity to help the business more effectively and cost-effectively meet customer needs and preferences.

I turn in this posting to consider how the strategic process would be scheduled.

• Strategic planning should be an ongoing activity, but the fact finding and supportive effort that comes from all of the various lines on the table of organization that would go into this can be time-consuming and demanding of effort and attention.
• So while organizations should be prepared for the unexpected and at least to the level of being able to identify that when it arises, much of the overall strategic process, starting with systematic reviews of current and recent position, should be scheduled and carried out on a predictable recurring basis.

My goal here is to discuss the basic, scheduled strategic process that would form a baseline for understanding where the business is now and on an ongoing basis, and that would lay out road maps for moving forward.

Standard, routinely scheduled strategic review and planning frequently take place in synchrony with major Financial department reports and with the tax and business year. For many businesses, and certainly for publically traded businesses, at least key strategic planning is also scheduled so as to immediately precede the annual meeting too, and can serve as essential preparation for that (see my series on Stockholder Meetings, Annual Board Meetings and Annual Meetings Best Practices as included in my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 as postings 221-224.)

It is important to carry out systematic strategic reviews and reevaluations on a regular and ongoing basis, and depending on the organization and the level of strategy-challenging change it is facing, this may mean quarterly, semi-annual or annual meetings.

• For businesses in immediate need of change management, this may mean monthly or even more frequent meetings while a path back to organizational stability, reliable liquidity and competitiveness is worked towards. The trick here is in holding these meetings often enough to offer the value that systematic strategic planning can provide, and in both developing a path forward and in conveying it to necessary stakeholders – but doing this without burning out those stakeholders for the work they have to expend in making overall strategic planning sessions possible.
• For businesses that are simply seeking to maintain and grow their market share and competitive position in the face of change and its imperatives, these meetings would be held less frequently, be more comprehensive when they are held, and they would be based at least in part on the ongoing findings and reports coming out of the business’ continuous quality improvement initiatives and programs (see, for example as one best practices approach to that, my discussion of continuous quality improvement committees.)

I am going to turn in my next series installment to more fully detail how the strategic process plays out in the face of sudden change where that can mean unexpected opportunity or crisis. With that I will have at least briefly outlined what strategy is as a process and how it fits into the overall functioning of a business. And I will follow that with a discussion of scenario-based strategic planning – which I note up-front can and should go beyond simply setting up single best case, worst case and middle ground alternatives for analysis.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 (and also see Business Strategy and Operations.) And I also discuss strategy and how it point-by-point connects to operations at Startups and Early Stage Businesses too.

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