Strategic Planning is the buzz word of this century. Everyone does it, and knows a little bit about it. But does this annual ritual produce a plan; and if so, is the plan strategic? If you are the captain of one of Zimbabwe’s many ships, whether in industry or the public sector, today we ask the question: Is your ship sailing in the right direction, at the right speed, and with the right crew & cargo on board? If so, your strategy is working. Keep at it.
For the rest of us, let’s discuss what strategy is, what it takes to plan effectively, and hopefully begin to address how your investment in strategic planning can yield returns. Most people are familiar with the key steps in strategic planning. These include: research; collection of baseline evidence; broad-based stakeholder consultations; use of appropriate planning tools for budgeting, scenario planning, environmental analysis, internal situational analysis, as well as post implementation monitoring & evaluation.
There are so many misconceptions about what strategy is. So much so, that it has become easier to explain what strategy is by outlining WHAT IT IS NOT. Strategy may involve the following components, but it is not: a collection of projects(“launch a new product”); a list of activities(“advertise the product on radio twice a week”); a description of processes(undertake regular reconciliations); nor is it even a set of goals or objectives(“achieve $20 million in revenue this year”).
While it is essential to consider these components as part of the planning process, our view is that strategy is really all about your position in the eyes of stakeholders. Strategy can therefore be simplified to two basic questions: (a) how do we effectively deliver on our stakeholders’ needs and expectations from us; (b) what does our organisation require from each stakeholders in order to succeed. It is the integrated institution-wide and systems-driven response to the most pertinent needs and expectations of your key stakeholders in relation to your mission (or purpose). Meeting stakeholder expectations is what gives relevance to your institution. In return, satisfied stakeholders will support your mission: customers will consume the product and accept higher price-points; vendors will supply inputs consistently, and on favourable terms; regulators will renew your license; bankers and investors will compete for your patronage; and employees will work happily and produce high-quality products, etc. This is how, eventually, the objective of generating $20 million will be reached and how, ultimately, this culture of consistent strategic planning and implementation, will deliver the vision.
For instance, your baker’s goal is probably to deliver high quality, fresh bread, at the most competitive price-point, to the door-step of all target customers, before any other baker, every morning. Strategy then, is the sum of actions that the baker must take to build positive stakeholder attitudes and prevail over market forces:
- Firstly, who is the target customer (market segmentation, research) and what kind of bread do they want (product design & innovation); what price can they afford (product costing, income surveys); what time do they have breakfast; what alternative sources of carbs might they access from elsewhere?
- Second, what capacity does our management and staff have to bake and deliver the bread at the standards promised to the customer (resource-needs assessments, technical capacity needs assessments). What internal procedures and processes do we need to guarantee consistent production quality?
- Thirdly, what is the most consistent source of flour, salt and other inputs? How can we promote the development of several strong suppliers for sustainability and to keep the cost of inputs low?
- Finally, understanding other industry forces like what competitors are doing to win the affection of the customer (competitor analysis, business intelligence); and how can we beat them to the customer’s doorstep and heart, every morning (logistics, communications, branding).
So, there we have it – a synopsis of what strategy entails in practice, and the key steps that our leaders must take towards crafting a solid plan. We will focus on implementation monitoring and evaluation in the next episode, but for now, our hope is that every institution will be ceased with the work of crafting new strategies for this completely new operating environment. This episode is a call to action for all organisations, (big and small, private or public), whose leaders recognize the wisdom in the old and perhaps over-used adage that “by failing to prepare, you prepare to fail”.
This article was compiled by Felix Kumirai, a transformational strategist and resource mobilisation consultant at GENESIS GLOBAL FINANCE. The contents herein are for information purposes only, and GGF does not accept responsibility for any loss arising from the use of materials or opinions contained in this article.
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