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communication between managers of the different levels and functional areas.

Strategy is Dynamic

Although your goals may remain the same, the strategy you adopt can change. Think of a game of chess. Your goal is to win. But to do so, you must adapt your strategy in the light of circumstances. If another player counters your opening gambit, there’s no point in continuing with the strategy, because it will fail.

What’s more, your vision can also change as time goes on. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does mean that you need a new roadmap to success.

Strategy is a Long-Term Plan

How you define “long-term” is up to you. But the further ahead we look, the fuzzier things get. Most companies choose three to five-year strategic plans. This allows for greater certainty than, for example, a twenty-year plan.

But why not make the time frame even shorter than three years? The reality is that strategic planning takes a lot of time and effort. You’d probably have to start working on your next strategic plan at last six months to a year before you’ve completed all the actions you planned last time around. Without much in the way of results to progress from, shorter plans become meaningless.

Strategy is a Road-Map

Most strategic planning initiatives begin by asking the question: “Where are we now; and where do we want to be?” It covers everything from the identity of the company to its reason for existing. That’s why you will begin by formulating or revisiting your organization’s vision, mission, and values.

There are those who believe that “impressive sounding” vision, mission and values statements are the way to go. But if these statements are just there to impress your customers, they won’t benefit your business. Instead, your vision, mission, and values statements are there to define who your organization is, what it wants, and how it will achieve that. If your vision doesn’t inspire you and your staff – why work towards it? All members of the organization should be able to identify with the direction you are taking.

Once you have looked at the big picture of what you want to achieve, the next step is to look at the journey you will undertake. Just saying you want to achieve $1,000,000 in net profits, for example, won’t guarantee your success. What steps will your organization take towards that goal? Who will be responsible, and by when must they achieve results?

Returning to the roadmap analogy, what milestones will you need to reach as you progress with your journey towards a goal?

Working towards Goals to Achieve a Vision

The final keywords in the definition we’ve provided are perhaps the most important of all. Effective goal-setting has very distinct characteristics. Every goal you set should have all of the following features:

Specific: When specifying a goal, there should be no room for uncertainty. For example, “We want to be industry-leaders,” sounds great, but what, specifically does that entail?

Measurable: Measurability helps a lot with specificity. Wherever possible, use quantifiable measurements. That doesn’t entirely exclude qualitative goal-setting, but you will need to define how you will measure qualitative indicators.

Achievable: Reaching for the stars sounds great, but do you have what it takes to build a rocket ship? Set challenging goals but don’t set yourself up for failure.

Realistic: Realism and achievability are closely related. That’s why you need to look at where you are now before you can decide what you plan to achieve. Do you have the necessary capital at your disposal? If you raise funds, what will it take to cover loan repayments? Do you have adequately skilled staff? If not, what will it take to attract new talent or train your existing workforce?

Time-bound: Let’s assume you’re working on a five-year plan. You will identify several strategic priorities. Realizing these means setting a series of tasks and sub-tasks. And since you’re looking at a three to five-year plan, each task must be completed by a certain time if you are to reach your target. Naturally, the time you set must also be achievable and realistic.

For anyone who has looked at goal-setting before, we are referring to SMART goals. That’s an acronym to remind us of the four characteristics of an effective goal. The result is a SMART organizational strategy.