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Strategic Planning Starts With Your Vision for Your Company

What role does vision play in the development of your business plan? If you listen to Jack Welch it's a big role.

"Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion." -- Jack Welch

Step #1 in the planning process: Clarify and document your vision.

Where do you want to be in five years? What specifically will that look like? Write that down in as much detail as possible. If you are tempted to blow this off or think this is easy, you've probably never done it. It's not as simple as it sounds.

Now ask yourself, what's been holding you back? Why you aren't already there? The answers to these questions can be enlightening. Maybe it's because you're confused or conflicted about what you really want. Or maybe something stands in your way that you haven't had the awareness or courage to confront.

Don't skimp on this phase of the planning process. If you're unclear about your vision, your whole plan will be useless.

Taking time to understand your business, both as it is today and as you want it to be tomorrow, is not as simple as it sounds.

It helps to have a knowledgeable and objective outsider involved in the planning process. An outsider will challenge you to think creatively. You'll be better able to see familiar situations in new ways. And it will be harder for people to get away with excuses and blame shifting.

Frankly, I think it's a dangerous mistake for the CEO or some other senior executive from within the organization to try to facilitate this assessment exercise. All too often participating staff members try to say what they think that executive wants to hear. A "herd mentality" develops that stifles honesty and creativity.

But a competent facilitator won't accept pat answers, clich´┐Ż(c)s, and jargon. He or she will encourage innovative thinking and force participants to drill down to bedrock facts.

When I go into a company, I start by asking the key players to clearly describe in writing what they want their company to look like in five years. What businesses will they be in? What products and services will they be selling? How many employees and locations will they have?

Most business owners, CEOs, and other major stakeholders think they know the answers to these questions. That is, until they try to put them on paper. Typically they struggle for hours before they reach agreement on their direction and general goals.

This process almost always births useful insights and promising opportunities.

A strong vision is the foundation of any successful business.

Your vision gives you a point of reference for evaluating and planning all aspects of your business. You'll make better and faster decisions when you evaluate every choice by asking, "Does this take me closer to or farther from the attainment of my vision?"

If you want your company to achieve maximum success, all business processes, management practices, and employee incentives should flow from and be in alignment with a clearly defined strategy. All employees should understand and be "on the same page" as your vision and strategy. Every employee should consider the vision when they encounter their individual "moments of truth".

In the fast food industry, moments of truth occur at the counter when the orders are taken. In manufacturing companies, they happen when a sales professional interacts with a prospect or customer, a serviceman repairs a customer's machine, a shipment goes out the door to a customer, a customer service representative answers the phone, and at numerous other points.

Where are the moments of truth in your business? What interactions are crucial for your success? Design and execute your strategy and all of your processes and practices to create positive moments of truth experiences for your external customers.

How do you create an environment that equips and motivates your internal customers to create positive moments of truth experiences for your external customers?

You start by clarifying your vision and communicating it consistently and constantly, so that every aspect of your company is built around it.

Your vision is your definition of success. Your strategy to achieve your vision is the foundation for your success. When you have a clear vision and a sound strategy - supported by good planning, communications, and metrics - your entire workforce will perform at a higher level. That means more profits and faster growth for your business, which is exactly what this book's about.

These concepts always work. Why? Because clear expectations built on the foundation of a sound vision always increase commitment, motivation, teamwork, and productivity.

Shifting expectations, on the other hand, increase confusion, discomfort, apathy, and disharmony.

Which will you choose for your business? You want successful growth for your business, of course. Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this book. So now it's time to take your first step toward success by developing a clear vision and communicating it well and often to all concerned.

Martin Harshberger is Managing Partner of Measurable Results LLC. Marty specializes in strategic planning, pre- and post-merger integration, as well as business process improvement. He can be reached at 662-844-9088 or by email at: [email protected] His new book Bottom Line Focus is available on Amazon and his website: www.bottomlinecoach.com/

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