Challenging Your Strategic Plan

Strategic Plan

Strategic planning is a vital part of running a business. Together with your leadership team, you can identify opportunities to grow, navigate current and potential challenges, and gain a solid understanding of every facet of your business. 

It is important to understand that there is much more to an effective strategic plan than meets the eye. You must prepare the minds of your leadership team so they are capable of making solid strategic decisions for the organisation, and committing to the strategy. It is not just the responsibility of the business owner, but of the entire executive team. That’s how you get the best outcome.

By the end of the strategy session, It is also important to obtain total alignment and for everyone in your organization to know the strategy, and be able to explain it in one or two sentences and then ‘over-communicate’ down to all levels of the organisation.

Create Prepared Minds Within Your Leadership Team

Strategic plans should be used as a learning tool to create prepared minds within your leadership team. You must ensure the key decision makers in your team have a sound understanding of the business. You want to make sure they are effectively problem solving based on all of the facts and information at hand. 

Most strategic planning is done through annual or quarterly meetings. Whilst there is solid evidence that these meetings are effective, they can often turn into a ‘show & tell’ – presentations or displays, rather than a conversation or two-way street. We also highly recommend that you carve out time out of your Monthly sessions for strategic discussions.

You want your leadership team collaborating with one another, challenging each other’s ideas and thinking outside of the box. This is the best way for everyone to learn and gain new information and insights. Leave the egos at the door, and everyone will leave the room much more focused, informed and committed to the strategy. 

That is why, before any strategic planning session I like to send out a detailed baseline/discovery questionnaire to participants so that we have ‘prepared minds’ and don’t ‘wing it’ during the set strategy days. And importantly share the output of the questionnaire with everyone beforehand.

Now that you understand what you want to gain from the strategic planning, and the goal for the leadership team, how do you actually review and challenge the strategy? It is about asking the right questions around your scope, choices and processes.

Challenging The Scope

Most companies use insights from their SWOT analysis to set their scope. This is usually updated annually, however it does not need to be set in stone and should instead leave room for experimentation and initiative. You should also at least uncover where the business should not do or go. 

Some of the questions you should ask:

  • What is the definition of your market?
  • Are current market trends having an effect on your business?
  • Are these market trends forcing you to change your processes?
  • How much of your profit comes from existing vs new markets?
  • If you needed to dramatically increase your growth, which markets would you enter?
  • What do we do much better (or worse) than our competitors?
  • What do our customers – and non-customers – see as our major strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are our assumptions about market trends over the next 3 years? Will this impact our strategy?
  • What products/services should we be developing, or which new uses for existing products/services should we explore?

Challenging the Choices

Strategic choices are made through a combination of intent, analysis and options available. They can be affected by many factors including:

  • Do we have the right organizational structure for growth?
  • Do we have the right people in the right seats?
  • Management or companies risk profile
  • Values and preferences
  • Time, information, environmental and resource constraints
  • Competitors
  • Impact of past strategies

To challenge the strategic decisions in your business, you can ask the following questions:

  • Are you pursuing growth aggressively enough?
  • What strategic choices are you making, and what are you rejecting? 
  • What is the rationale behind these choices? 
  • How do you ensure you have a preferentially different value proposition?
  • Are your choices the same or different from your competitors?
  • What are the most high risk-high, high-reward things they could do in the next three years? (the fourth option – from the Outthinker Process)

Challenging The Process

When did you last review the process of your strategic planning? Ask yourself:

  • What approach do you use to develop creative strategies?
  • Have we thought through all the dependencies & potential obstacles?
  • Have you committed sufficient resources to your strategic initiatives?
  • Have you interviewed your customers?
  • How do you measure the effectiveness of your strategy?
  • Is your leadership team committed to improving the strategy?

Create prepared minds with your leaders, and use this as a guide for your next strategy day. Remember to open the room up to two-way conversations, rather than one-sided presentations. If you need help with your next strategy day, reach out to the team at Strategy & Execution. 

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We have been providing organisations and their leaders with facilitation support and executive education focused on strategy development and strategy execution for more than 20 years. Using business models such as Scaling Up, Exponential Organizations, E-Myth Mastery, Outthinker etc, we support organisations seeking to create or refine excellent strategies and execute them quickly and effectively.

Our expertise is based on a mixture of wide business experience, effective tools as well as a great deal of consulting and executive education. Our approach to working with clients is as unique as our specialist focus. We always seek to challenge our clients’ thinking – but equally are unafraid to roll up our sleeves and help execute the ideas we help generate. Learn more about us here or view our upcoming workshops and events.

If you are preparing for strategy development and/or a strategy implementation challenge and are committed to creating value for your organisation, we look forward to hearing from you. Contact us now