Strategic plans only help organizations when they are kept active and implemented. The strategic plan defines the business direction. That direction is based on the future, the vision of the company. Before an effective strategic plan can be developed, a clear and compelling vision is needed. Visions are optimistic, the ideal picture of the future. The strategic plan is the map to the vision, and only is effective if it is implemented.

Strategic plans can sound intimidating and overwhelming to many small business owners. The most effective strategic plans are those that are simple, and completed through the efforts of the leadership team and key people in the company. Complex documents that consume excessive amounts of time to create don’t guarantee success. In fact, the large and cumbersome strategic plan can be so overwhelming that it just doesn’t work.

Start with vision. Write down what you envision for the future. What does the future of your business look like? What do you want for the future? Vision stories are inspiring, it’s your dream. Once you have created your vision, you can begin building strategies.

The vision is the destination, where you are going. The strategies are the map that gets you to the vision. Company values are the compass in our map metaphor for making decisions along the way. Values keep you oriented and in alignment. When values are out of alignment, the company is off track and not moving in the direction of the vision.

The number of strategic goals can be limited to your top five or 10. By having fewer goals, the plan is able to stay alive and in front of you. By alive, I mean that the plan is always where you can see it, use it and keep working on it.

To set strategies for your business, first look at the vision, and then the different aspects of that vision. Brainstorm all of the goals, all of the strategies for each aspect of the vision. With brainstorming, it is important to get out all of the ideas, and write them down without judging them or editing them. Often, the best idea comes from an idea that at first look seems too wild or crazy, but remember – ideas jump off of other ideas.

Once you have brainstormed all of the ideas, prioritize them. Often, ideas can be grouped with similar ideas. This can help in the prioritization process. The goal is to narrow the list down to the top six to 10 strategies. What are the goals or strategies that will give your business the future you envision, that will create a breakthrough that will produce the results that you want? Those are the goals that you should be selecting as top priorities.

Creating a powerful strategic plan is just one of the first steps. Many organizations have strategic plans that are well thought out and crafted. Where they fall short is in the implementation of that plan. Implementation is the key. If you fail to implement, the results will not be what you set out to achieve.

Implementation is the result of focused and continuous action. Strategic plans don’t just happen on their own; they require your attention. By keeping the plan in front of you, and the people responsible for the plan, focus is maintained, and you can keep the plan moving in the right direction.

In order to make changes in the results that you achieve, there has to be intention and commitment on the part of all involved. Through the intention of the leadership, the plan and the team, the culture of the workplace can shift from one of non-performance to one that is performance-focused.

Performance-focused companies are companies that are thriving, and there’s an increase of energy of the whole organization. It becomes more positive and contagious. People become excited about the vision, the plan and their implementation of the plan. Results create energy and excitement that keep the plan moving, propelling the plan.

Organizations that produce results have a clear vision of the future; they have a plan that is simple and strategic; and they work on the plan all the time. Their actions are designed to move that plan forward. They don’t let themselves or others get in the way. By implementing the strategic plan, organizations achieve results.  ND