Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Power of a Plan

We create plans all the time: plans to go to dinner and a movie with friends, plans for an exotic vacation, we plan our household budgets and plan for our retirements. In all, every plan we make is an attempt to help us move from where we are to where we want to be in the most convenient, effective and efficient way possible.

Surprisingly, however, many organizations are operating without one of the most important plans they need—a strategic plan. As a critical business development tool, the strategy plan is a keystone to evaluating future growth and providing a roadmap on how to achieve it. It helps us to see our companies from an objective impartial manner and strategize the direction of our efforts.

Strategic plans articulate the past and present, and provide a sense of direction for companies that enables growth from better use of existing resources, and identification of needed new ones. In its simplest form, a good strategy plan will provide an objective view of the world, allowing a company to make informed decisions.

But perhaps the most important value of the strategy plan is its ability to organize a business around the characteristics of its markets. The plan brings to life the true bottom-line value of keeping customers for life and identifies the areas where customer relationships can be enhanced.

One of my favorite tools for strategy building is the Balanced Scorecard™ created by Robert Kaplan and David Norton out of Harvard. The tool asks you to look at the business in terms of four key categories: financial, customer, innovation/infrastructure, and learning and growth. Basically, working from the bottom up you identify what knowledge and skills your teams must have to generate the innovation and systems needed to serve your customers and manage markets, while providing a financial return that satisfies all stakeholders.

Perhaps the most clear and appropriate explanation of the value of a strategy plan can be found in the story of Alice in Wonderland. Alice, who is lost and doesn’t quite know what to do asks the Cheshire Cat for directions.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” said Alice.
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where…,” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you do,” said the Cat.

If it doesn’t matter which way your organization goes, then perhaps creating an adaptive and strategic marketing plan is not a good idea. But, if you want a roadmap for success then there’s no better tool than a well developed strategy plan.

-- David Kinard, PCM

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