Tag: strategic planning

What has company culture got to do with strategic planning?

Company culture plays a more significant role in strategic planning than some people realise. Managing directors and team leaders need to ensure there is clarity regarding expected behaviours of employees. Most employees want to contribute to the long-term success of the business but how you get there is just as important as the end goal as Mike Gaffney explains.

Definition of strategy by Oxford: a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.

The word strategy frightens some business people but strategy is simply a game plan. This plan is a road map to secure your future. Strategic planning and company culture go hand in hand. The plan must address what sort of culture you will have in the organisation for it to be successful. That should be a key part of the plan in order to build a better future.

What is company culture?

A culture is the collective way that the organisation works both internally and within the marketplace; it is how we behave. In developing your plan for the business, the strategy will be driven by the people in the organisation, in other words the success of your strategic plan depends on the kind of company culture you create.

A key question is ‘what drives our behaviours?’

The answer is our values. These are the attitudes and beliefs we have that influence our behaviours every day – honesty, integrity, authenticity, passion, commitment. Behaviour is also driven by our ambition to be successful and our need to feel significant and relevant in what we do. All of these things make up the culture of an organisation.

The strategic planning challenge

The strategic planning challenge then is how to tap into the key motivations of individuals within the organisation. For example, a company may have a clear set of compelling values like honesty, respect, support, innovation and a can-do attitude. This is their reference point; it’s what they hire and fire by. Teams within such organisations are not focused entirely on profit margins but they also want to know if they have a long-term future with the company. Do I respect the company values?

Do those values protect me and help me progress and feel respected within the organisation and within my team?

Operations ManagementA company culture that drives employee engagement

In relation to the company’s vision and mission, culture is what will drive engagement in the workforce. All the planning in the world will fail if the plan does not outline how you are going to engage the workforce and make them feel valued. So creating the right organisational culture is pivotal to the planning process. The plan will contains goals, objectives and tactics but without a culture of engaging the team the plan will fall flat.

Also bear in mind that strategic plans are fluid; it is a statement of intent by the organisation as to where they want to get to and how they are going to get there. As you progress further in that journey you gain greater visibility than you had at the start, so naturally it will need to be adjusted and fine-tuned. It should also be used as a mechanism to challenge the original premise on which the plan was based. Are we as a company moving in the right direction, or does the plan need to change? Perhaps it does but the core values of the organisation should remain regardless of any changes in strategy.

Honesty, respect, integrity, passion and a supportive environment – these things still matter.

Product lines and services may evolve, internal operations may also change but a positive company culture based on your value system should remain in place.

Mike Gaffney , MD

Mike Gaffney managing director at LEAP






5 Reasons Why Some Strategic Business Plans Fail

Maureen Grealish director at LEAPResearch into the factors leading to strategic planning failure in business reveal a myriad of reasons why some companies struggle to survive in the marketplace. But the more conspicuous statistics relate to development versus implementation. Reports such as the Bridges Strategy Implementation Survey indicate that 80 of team leaders feel satisfied with their development plans, but only 44 are happy with its implementation.  Spectacular strategic failures like Kodak grab headlines for all the wrong reasons, but in truth many companies suffer the same fate with business leaders failing to innovate, or senior managers failing to implement the business plan. With her extensive experience in strategic planning, Maureen Grealish outlines 5 reasons why some strategic business plans fail, and why companies struggle with this critical issue.

1. Lack of Alignment Between Strategy, Objectives, Vision and KPIs

“Some businesses develop Visions, Strategy, Objectives and KPIs independently of each other, not understanding that they should be linked. Even though they may focus on each area, the fact that they are not aligned results in lack of focus, direction and impact. The idea is to fix on a vision first, then identify a strategy that will get the business there. Once the strategy has been agreed, 5/6 Key Business Objectives for the next 12-18 months can be agreed, and with them the measurements that will measure the progress (or otherwise) towards the achievement of the objective.”

2. Lack of Discipline

“Lack of consistency in discipline will affect the outcomes from any Strategic Development Programme. A lot of discussion, time and effort can go in to developing the strategic plan of a business. The biggest reason that they fail is that the action elements are not applied, monitored regularly or refined when required. This results in lack of focus and direction. It also results in lack of energy…if actions aren’t being completed then nothing can be achieved.”

3. Lack of Accountability

“As part of the strategic plan development, actions will have been identified. Each action will have a deadline and an owner. If the MD does not encourage accountability for completion of the actions, then people will realise that there are no consequences for lack of action and the drive to complete them will be pushed to the background when other, often immediate, challenges arise.”

4. Lack of Head Space

“When managers, leaders and team members are so busy that they cannot ‘lift their heads’ away from the immediate requirements of the business, it is difficult for them to get the head space to address the medium and long-term elements of the business. It is human nature to focus on the immediate, however, it does not help a business progress towards the completion of an objective, which makes it impossible to successfully realise a vision. It takes practice and discipline to give some time to the future, and to ensure that decisions made and actions taken will assist with getting the business to where it wants to go.”

5. Lack of Courage

“It is easier to focus on the elements of our responsibilities that we know we are good at. The natural tendency is to achieve NOW. It can be more difficult to spend some of our time focusing on the future – that may be uncertain, may have risk and may be uncharted territory. We all need to be courageous to challenge what we are doing now, what is comfortable for us, and to adapt to changes which may be difficult in the short term, but will have greater impact in the longer term.”

Maureen Grealish

Is Strategic Planning a luxury in today’s business conditions?

Maureen Grealish director at LEAP

Strategic Planning

Strategic Plans normally addresses the business, and its requirements for periods of between 3 and 5 years. Given the recent turbulent trading conditions, many business management teams are reluctant to engage in a detailed, time-consuming planning exercise that many see as being out of line with reality and largely an academic exercise.

A Business Plan, in the traditional format, will still be required for businesses raising finance and/or where a major strategic decision needs to be made e.g. an acquisition or the purchasing of equipment. In a business that is not engaged in such strategic decisions, business strategy should not be reduced to short-term, fire-fighting decisions that are not aligned to any overarching plan.

The alternative is a Strategic Action Plan covering periods of 12-18 months.

The importance of goal setting is well covered in a litany of business management books. The reason for this is that goal setting WORKS! We all know that we have a goal, business or personal, and if we can really get motivated by it, then we can achieve great things. Clearly defining the goal, and having a picture in our head of what things will look like when the goal is achieved, helps us through the difficult days. Just talk to anyone that focused on losing a stone in weight so that they can fit into that special outfit, and got there, and you will know what I mean.

We can do the same for our business. The key is to set a goal, make it something we REALLY want to achieve, and keep focused on it.

There are two key elements in keeping focused on the goal. The first is to share the goal with those around us – our management team, employees, and anyone else that has a part to play in achieving the goal. The second is to put Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in place to help us monitor our progression towards the goal.

It also helps if we break down the goal into its component parts i.e. objectives.

An objective is the most important part of the Strategic Action Plan. An objective is a clearly stated, measureable target of how to achieve the goal. Key Performance Indicators help us define how we are doing in achieving each objective. A business should have objectives around business elements such as

–          Operational Costs

–          Staff Turnover

–          Client Retention

–          New Sales

–          Quality

–          Service Levels

–          Communication

The difference between a ‘good’ objective and a ‘bad’ objective is in how the objective is defined i.e. an objective to ‘Contain Support Costs’ is an example of a bad objective. An objective to ‘Receive ISO certification by next March’ is an example of a good objective. The more specific the objective is, the better it is.

Once the objectives have been agreed, plans can be developed to achieve those targets. These can then be used to motivate employees and enable the business to measure their progress towards the goal. One thing is true – businesses that can clearly define, articulate, and execute their goals are well positioned to compete and succeed.

So – do you have a goal?

Maureen Grealish