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Strategic planning

Why properly managing strategic initiatives is vital in tough economy

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Business executives are battling time and the economy, necessitating that every company has a strategic plan. Many of the recessionary-induced changes may be permanent, forcing executives to employ strategic management techniques to revise their organizations for success in a new economy.

Creating an effective business plan in today's environment

Thirty-page glossy plans are out -- one-page working documents are in -- because a short plan gives everyone in the organization a clear, concise picture of the priorities. Describe each initiative by outlining where the company is now, where you want to go, when you want to get there and how you plan to get there, and also name who is responsible for each assignment. The plan should be created by those who have a vested interest in the outcome. The planning team should blend operational managers with strategic thinkers to create a plan that is visionary, yet detailed and realistic.

Next step: implementation

Communicate the plan to every employee in the organization, making sure that everyone buys in to the mission and understands his or her role. Every employee should know how their particular role supports the overall organization's business and goals. Executives may not have time to survey every employee to gauge acceptance and understanding of the plan. Make a few phone calls and chat with employees in the hallways, asking them for feedback to validate the effectiveness of your communication strategy.

Create individual goals tied to the plan

While you are communicating the vision, amend the employee performance plans, disseminating accountability and responsibility for achieving the company's objectives to each individual. Aligning employee compensation with the overall strategy of the company adds another layer of reinforcement toward achievement of the larger objectives.

Managing the plan

After a new plan is introduced, review meetings should be held every 30 days, because getting off on the right foot and driving change are critical to ultimately achieving the plan. Short-term review points provide an opportunity to reset the "must do" actions. It is important to distinguish the "must do" items from those you should or could do. While staff members should report on their progress during the meetings; remind them via e-mail about upcoming sessions, so everyone knows what to expect, and to let the staff know you are serious about following the plan through to completion. Appoint a scribe to take notes during the meeting, and then send out the minutes and a list of action items after each session. Adjust a goal if the economy has changed making it unachievable. Don't shy away from holding people accountable. Look at any macro objectives in a micro way to see if political, social or economic events necessitate a change, and review assumptions you used in creating the goal to see if they are still valid. In this economy, you may need to challenge your own assumptions more frequently than in the past.

Too often, executives create a business plan and it sits on the shelf because there's enough momentum in the economy to carry the company forward. One of the biggest myths about this recession is that we can wait and things will ultimately get better. This time, executives need to create change. The only way to move an organization toward a new strategic vision is by managing strategically.

Wayne R. Pinnell, CPA, is the managing partner at Haskell & White LLP. Reach him at 858-350-4215 or wpinnell@hwcpa.com.

Submitted by Haskell & White LLP

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