Introduction to Strategic Planning

By Dave Favor, The Wise Owl

We toss around many terms, and before we get too deep into strategic planning it would be beneficial to let you know my definition of these terms.

  • Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. The core values are the guiding principles that dictate behavior and action.
  • Value statements are grounded in values and define how people want to behave with each other and in the organization.
  • Vision is a statement of what the organization wants to become. The vision should resonate with all members of the organization and help them feel proud, excited, and part of something much bigger than themselves. A vision should stretch the organization’s capabilities and image of itself. It gives shape and direction to the organization’s future.
  • Mission/Purpose is a precise description of what an organization does. It should describe the business the organization is in. It is a definition of “why” the organization exists currently. Each member of an organization should be able to express this mission verbally.
  • Strategies are the broadly defined key approaches the organization will use to accomplish its mission and drive toward the vision.

A strategic plan defines and documents these terms for the organization. The purpose of a strategic plan is to gather your thoughts and put a stake in the ground.  From the strategic plan, we will develop the business, marketing, technology and other detailed plans needed to build the business.  The strategic plan also provides a starting point to build your work culture.

Without a strategic plan, there is a tendency to react to the problem of the day.  Over time, you get lost and discover you are not making any progress.  You tend to get spread too thin trying to react to everything.  A strategic plan serves to get you back on track and focused on your goal.

A good exercise we do to get back on your path is to figure out where you are now and do a SWOT analysis.  OK, another new term.  A SWOT is an evaluation of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a business venture.  After the SWOT analysis, you have some idea of what you need to address and what you already have.  Now using your core values, vision and mission that you defined as guidelines, develop your strategies.  You now have a strategic plan.

None of these things have to be fancy, but you should have them documented.  Now you can write your detailed plans, and they will be aligned with a common strategic plan. Once you have the plan, don’t ignore it. I have walked into businesses where the business plan does not reflect the marketing plan, and neither are related to the strategic plan.  My father would say: the right hand has no idea what the left hand is doing!

Dave Favor is the President and principal in Catalyst Group, Inc.  He brings to the table over 50 years high-level business and management experience, including time at IBM and as a private consultant to major Fortune 500 companies. Dave’s experience allows him to bring to the table a way of running a business that small business and law firms can strategically leverage. A teacher of self-mastery, leadership, and business principles, he is a believer in value-based living and working.  Catalyst Group, Inc. is located in Raleigh, North Carolina and is known for its mentoring of small businesses and law firms.