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    Making Strategic Planning Matter

    By: Jeff Gau
    December 22, 2016

    It’s planning season here at Marco for fiscal year 2017, which reminded me of what separates a good year from one that goes down in the record books. Most people would say a great year is exceeding their sales and profit goals. This is a really good indicator, but we do need to know how and why it happened. It takes intention - and more importantly execution.

    I believe we are a high-performing growth company because of our ability to identify and execute on key initiatives every year. That’s why we start our strategic planning process three months before the new fiscal year begins.

    This starts with our executive leadership team. We ask each team member to share 3-5 possible corporate initiatives for the coming year. Together, we determine our top five priorities and have agreed to include a sixth on customer satisfaction every year as a reminder of our commitment to keep our eye on this important metric.

    We then ask each department to identify their own top five initiatives that support our corporate strategies when applicable. I personally meet with all of the department stakeholders to review their divisional plans. The outcome is a comprehensive business plan that guides us through the upcoming year.

    Here’s what has worked for us when developing our initiatives:

    • Don’t get hung up on doing it by “the book.” There are many versions of what a good business plan looks like. This is where organizations sometimes overcomplicate things. It’s not rocket science – we’re simply documenting and committing to what we are going to accomplish in the new year. Create a process that works for you.
    • Focus on the verbs. Words do matter and specifically the verbs we use to describe the action we are going to take. Evaluate, select, develop and implement are key action words that we use to indicate what we intend to accomplish. Not every initiative needs to be about full implementation.
    • Prioritize the ideas. Often we look at a list of 20 potential initiatives that all look pretty good. While we want to execute them all, we can’t. Not all ideas qualify as being strategic. However, they still might be important, so we document some of these as “tasks.” The goal here is to make sure your priority items are focused on, your tasks are documented and others just won’t make the cut.
    • Clarify, communicate and track. We keep the statements simple and include a few bullet points under each initiative that further clarify our intentions. Then we share and explain our initiatives with Marco leadership at our annual strategic planning meeting and ultimately with all employees. We review and report progress on every initiative at least quarterly.

    In case you’re wondering what we’ve committed to in 2017, here are our corporate initiatives:

    • Develop and execute a plan to replicate Marco’s culture and brand in all regions.
    • Develop and execute a plan to initiate IT services in acquired markets and accelerate in target regions.
    • Create a leadership development plan that supports our growth strategy.
    • Analyze and define a strategy to profitably grow the video business unit.
    • Develop a 3-year IT services roadmap to include: technology, market price, focus regions and delivery cost.
    • Achieve customer satisfaction at 90 percent or higher in all solution categories.

    Our strategic planning process has worked well for us. I feel good about starting the year with a guidebook that we can follow to drive results.

    Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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    Topics: Strategic Planning, Growth
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