Strategic planning and strategic implementation work hand in hand. Organizations begin with a strategic plan, with which management determines what strategies will align the company's goals with its vision and values. The company’s managers and employees then take the senior management’s strategic plan and implement it. Implementation concerns the day-to-day operation of the business and aligns the activities to the corporate goals.
The first step toward developing a strategic plan is a SWOT analysis. During a SWOT analysis, a company will evaluate its internal strengths, internal weaknesses, external opportunities and external threats. Identifying internal strengths and weaknesses is simple compared with evaluating external opportunities and threats. The SWOT analysis must explore the entire market the company is operating in and find areas where the company can rise above the competition.
After the SWOT analysis is complete, the company’s management can use it to set current and future goals for the organization. Using the SWOT analysis in addition to the vision and values statements of the organization will ensure that the new goals are in line with the organization’s purpose and prevent the company from compromising its reputation. When setting goals, managers should work on immediate changes and near-future goals, from one to three years into the future. Plans should include the method by which the organization will achieve the goals.
Strategic plans should be active; they should involve tactics, timelines, departmental responsibilities, evaluation schedules and implementation schedules and plans. The strategic plan will identify what the organization wants or is focused on and why the company pursues those goals. Plans will include budgeting and interdepartmental collaboration to achieve the strategic goals. Plans will often be created each year or for a specific purpose or goal.
Plans don’t make goals come to fruition, so implementation is vital. During implementation, plans are broken into manageable objectives for each department or the organization as a whole. Strategic plans are concerned with who is involved, when the plans will be implemented, how they will be implemented and where the implementation will take place. Implementation of the strategic plan should involve budgeting and employee incentives. Communication between employees and managers and managers and owners will be critical for the successful execution of the strategic plan.
Plans should be re-evaluated regularly to identify progress and make any necessary adjustments. If plans are failing or falling short, managers should review the plan for common pitfalls. These include problems with employee buy-in, insufficient communication, letting daily duties become more important than long-term goals and failure to break the plan down into manageable steps. Other problems might be management’s apathy toward the plan and business values, failure to review the plan more often that once a year, not providing an evaluation method and plan, not giving employees the skills and responsibility to accomplish the tasks and failure to keep employees and management accountable for achieving the plans. An evaluation schedule should be set when the strategic plan is created.