This blog post was written by our guest blogger Mark Dengler, President and Owner of Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS), a strategic planning consulting firm in Upstate, NY.
With the close of the second quarter of 2012, now is a good time to review where you are with accomplishing your goals and objectives in your strategic plan. Are sales and/or service expansions where they need to be? If not, it may be time to re-examine your 2010 goals. While goals are critical in keeping organizations focused and purposeful, they often need adjustments based upon unexpected environmental factors.
If you are not where you had hoped to be, here are 10 tips to improve strategic planning for your business:
- Fear not. Whether or not you meet your goals depends on your approach to goal setting. Begin by jotting down your goals and strategies for fulfilling them or review those items in your strategic plan. Do not fear being stuck with your goals – keep in mind they are flexible and you have the ability to modify them.
- Divide the short-term and long-term goals. Consider establishing goals for the week, the quarter, the year and even three- to five-year time spans if your strategic plan is falling short. You should begin by identifying long-term goals, then back track to come up with short-term ones. First, think of the big goals – such as securing a given amount of clients or generating a high-volume in revenue this year – then make a list of the steps you need to follow to achieve these long-term objectives. Once you have identified all the necessary steps, break them down into individual goals and it will make your strategic plan more actionable.
- Make sure your goals are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive. Avoid vagueness. Make sure your goals are specific (e.g., increase productivity of plant assembly line), measurable (can be quantified), and have a deadline (increase productivity of plant assembly line by 35% before the end of the third quarter).
- Include your battle plan. Your plan of action should be part of your goal. Always follow this formula: I will [achieve goal] by [implementing this strategy or strategies]. You can have more than one strategy. Just make sure that you specify all of them in your goal statement. Goals define the “What” and strategies define the “How.”
- Don’t aim too low. While aiming too high will lead to defeat, aiming too low can lead to no gains at all. You may be able to easily meet conservative goals, such as increasing productivity by 3%, but you won’t get any sense of achievement from accomplishing them. More importantly, your business will likely suffer as competitors pursue and achieve more ambitious goals.
- Be realistic and relevant. Make sure you do not set goals that are too difficult to attain. If you establish impossible goals, you will ensure your own failure. In addition, goals should serve a purpose, not just create more things for you to do.
- Be tenacious. If you find that you are not accomplishing the goals that you have written down, do not be discouraged. Continue writing goals for several months and you will see an improvement in your ability to establish and reach goals.
- Push yourself. The key is to make sure your goals are challenging, yet reasonable. Add an extra degree of difficulty to easy goals. For example, if you normally strive to increase your client base by five customers a year, go for seven or eight instead. Difficult goals will compel you to focus and make the best use of your resources. Even if you don’t reach these goals, you will still feel a sense of accomplishment for having pushed yourself to new levels.
- Check how you’re doing. Put your weekly or other short-term goals where you can see them so you are constantly reminded of what you have to do. Review your annual goals every month to see how you’re faring and modify your strategy if something is not working. Keep in mind that flexibility is key to goal setting.
- Keep at it. Don’t forget to congratulate yourself on your successes and learn valuable lessons from your not-quite successes. Then keep on establishing tough goals for your business and working hard to meet them.
These 10 simple tips should help improve your strategic planning for your business. If you are interested in discussing how RMS can help you with your strategic planning process contact our Business Development Director, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 315-635-9802.