Strategic planning is a core function for any CEO/business owner, and it can make or break the company if not done effectively. Strategic planning is a process of defining the most important QUESTIONS in order to set your decision frames, determine your highest priorities, and allow you to measure your results and outcomes.
Consider some important questions when you begin your strategic planning:
- What is our focus
- What are our priorities
- What MUST we do?
- What do we do amazingly well that no one else can?
- How will we blueprint, build, and scale those capabilities?
One tool that can be extremely useful as you work your strategic plan is a SWOT analysis. What are the company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats? When conducting this analysis, consider the Strengths/Weaknesses as your internal factors, and Opportunities/Threats as external factors.
There are some common questions involved when you run a SWOT analysis:
- What advantages does your company have over other companys?
- What does your company do better than other companies?
- What resources do you have that other companies do not have?
- What do your customers or clients see as your biggest strengths? (What are your customers/clients saying about you?)
- What makes you unique in your selling propositions?
- Other questions?
- Are there areas where could your company improve? (Be Realistic here!)
- Are there customers/clients should you avoid?
- Are there services/products should you avoid?
- Are there areas of your market that you need to improve your awareness of?
- What causes the company to lose sales?
- Other questions?
- What are changes in technology that you can take advantage of?
- Are there changes in law or government policy in your market?
- What changes in demographics, customer behavior, or lifestyle changes can you leverage?
- Are there trends in the marketplace that you can leverage?
- Are there new events that you can bring your company to?
- Is the opportunity only available for a short amount of time?
- What are your biggest obstacles?
- Who are your competitors and what are they doing?
- Is technology changing that puts your company in a bad positions?
- Is new law or quality standards threatening your company?
- Is cash flow or debt a problem?
A good SWOT analysis will be as precise as possible and extremely comprehensive. Whether it is done for the company as a whole or for individual departments, it can lead to focused goal setting with desired outcomes laid out. For example, “What are the 5 things we need to do in the next X years to reach our desired future vision? After reviewing your SWOT, you can develop the top goals to maximize your Strengths and Opportunities while mitigating your Weakness and Threats.
Being rigorous and realistic is important during a SWOT analysis. You must be willing to face unpleasant facts head on. Try to use precise and verifiable statements and avoid generalities. This means that you need to prepare your facts and figures in advance of conducting the SWOT analysis. This will also help you tremendously when you are prioritizing what to tackle first.
Remember that your SWOT analysis is a guide to help you build realistic SMART goals (we will cover this in a separate blog in the future). You should share your analysis with others and gain their feedback and insights. A SWOT analysis can also be repeated (with different participants if desired). This may give you even more awareness of your company’s position and bring new and different ideas out that were overlooked by past analyses. Remember the goal of a SWOT analysis…maximize the good and minimize the bad.
At LXCouncil meetings, our groups of CEO and business owner peer advisors commonly address challenges related to strategic planning. They discuss the tasks and challenges involved not just in the process itself, but in even beginning the process. If you find yourself struggling to find the time and resources for the true strategic activities a leader needs to be engage in for business success, a peer advisory council can help.
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