Executing Strategy and Goal Achievement- Step 1: Planning

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Executing Strategy and Goal Achievement- Step 1: Planning


One of the challenges facing small to mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) is executing their strategy to achieve goals. It all starts with planning your strategy and then deploying the strategy down to all levels of the organization so that everyone has a part to play in achieving the organizations goals.

Policy (strategy) deployment is a planning system that includes the implementation, or the “doing,” of what is planned, as well as the review of what is being done. This system is based on the PDCA cycle.

“Doing” is probably different from most organizations’ conception of planning, in which it is perhaps more common to imagine the doing the plan as separate from developing the plan. Policy deployment involves the doers in the planning process, not a separate group of managers developing the plan.

Planning and the PDCA cycle

The concept of a closed loop planning process had its start with the teachings of W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran, two American quality gurus who spent time teaching this concept to the Japanese in the 1950s. The essential elements of the PDCA cycle are:

  1. Plan. Where are we going? How do we get there? Determine the goals to be achieved and methods to reach them. We must determine SMART metrics (simple, measurable, achievable, reasonable, and trackable).
  2. Do. Tracking or deploying our goals and activities level by level and carrying out the corresponding action plans.
  3. Check. Examine the results: was the goal achieved? Was the improvement hypothesis validated?
  4. Adjust. If the goals were achieved, adopt the new methods permanently, if not, determine the cause of the failure and return to Plan. Continue the cycle until no more improvement or progress is required.

Thinking of planning as a means of improvement may be new to some of you, but, in fact, a sound plan is the best opportunity management has for achieving breakthrough improvement in business results.

Objectives, Strategies, and Hierarchy of Purpose

In any planning and especially in strategic planning, it is vitally important to select the “right” objectives. In addition to establishing the “right” objectives, part of the job of planning is to determine the best means of achieving the objectives and, further, to enable effective implementation and review of the means as the plan is executed. In order to select the right objectives, you must consider the context of the organization. The context of the organization will include specific higher order intentions, including the needs and desires of its stakeholders.

Examples of higher order intentions might include, “make the owners wealthy, “provide jobs for the people in the surrounding communities,” and provide the best products and services to society.” Objectives such as “become profitable in 2020,” or “introduce four new products/services next year,” rather than being taken simply as objectives need to be viewed as means of achieving the higher order purpose of the organization in the long-term. Or, in other words, they can be called strategies for achieving your higher order objectives. What about the higher order objectives themselves? Are they strategies for achieving yet higher order objectives? Yes, probably. The way to determine what these are is to ask “why?” For example, why do we want to provide jobs? It is vitally important to develop this context in order to effectively develop your strategic plan. Also, the process of asking “why” begins to uncover the true values of your organization.

Why Plan?

No matter how simple or complex and activity might be, the plan is the map of how we expect to get to the desired future state. It is not uncommon for SMEs to have neither a concept of the desired future state of the organization, nor a plan, beyond the short time frame of an operational plan. Some small businesses may not even have much in the way of a short-term operational plan. Planning is a valuable tool that can be undertaken by any organization, and it will profoundly enhance its effectiveness in a relatively short time.

Determining Your Organization’s Current State

Planning begins with an assessment of your organization’s current state and the environment in which your company functions. This includes a careful analysis of your successes and failures, a review of customer surveys and complaints, an analysis of your critical processes and an understanding of competitors’ relative strength as well as important trends that be important to your organization.

Developing the Mission

The first task of the initial planning meeting should be to develop, or revisit, your mission. Mission is the purpose of your organization, the reason your company exists. Some examples are:

We work hard every day to make American Express the world’s most respected service brand. American Express

To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. Tesla

To give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible. Nordstrom

Helping organizations produce defect-free products and services with less human effort, less time, less space, less capital and at far less cost. Quantum Associates, Inc

The point here is to be specific about what your organization does to provide value to your customers. Simple language is best. The target audience for the mission statement is management, employees, customers, and shareholders. The objective of the mission statement is to have a common understanding of what your organization does, and perhaps more importantly, what it does not do.


Values are the fundamental beliefs that influence individual and organizational decision -making and behavior. It is important to acknowledge these values in the planning process, to agree on what they are, and how they will guide policies and actions.

Critical Success Factors

The management team must agree on the metrics that describe how well the organization is meeting its business objectives, and then assess your performance against them. These critical measures can be financial and non-financial. Financial measures tend to be lagging indicators, that is they really measure the result of actions taken by your company in the past. Some other examples of leading indicators include, customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, innovation, etc. These indicators are better predictors of the future and measure your ability to succeed in the future.

Performance Against Last Year’s Plan

Even if you used a different planning method than the PDCA cycle it is useful to review the prior year’s plan using the PDCA format to examine performance against plan.

Contact us if you would like a complimentary copy of the simple PDCA Review Form.

Voice of the Customer

There are two broad classes of customers you should consider in your customer needs and satisfaction assessment, external and internal. At any level in your organization the needs of external customers have top priority. Do you have effective systems for capturing the voice of the customer, and are they effective? Capturing, integrating, and transforming customer voices into actions plans should be one of the critical processes of your organization.

Customer needs in coordination with your mission should influence the design of your products and services. An important issue that needs to be addressed in the planning process is whether the products and services that you plan to offer will be able to generate the revenue and profits required to meet your growth objectives.

In addition to having customers, products, and services your organization must understand how and why customers use your products/services. There must be a clear understanding of market segmentation and the positioning of your products and services within those segments.

Performance of Critical Processes

It is helpful to view your organization as a set of integrated business processes. Being able to visualize how your organization “works” at the process level is very helpful in identifying customer-supplier relationships, flow of information and material. And potential disconnects. It also sets the stage for identifying the high-level measures for the processes themselves. The process map is an essential tool for visualizing how your organization “works.”

In the ideal case, with no disconnects, the task of managing an organization comes down to effectively managing your processes and their interactions to achieve the mission of your organization day-in, day-out. Many of the highly sought-after breakthrough improvements in business performance can be achieved by understanding and improving the business processes that have the highest impact on your critical success factors.

Contact us if you would like a complimentary Process Priority Tool to assess the performance of your critical processes against your critical success factors.

Competitive Analysis

“Knowing your competitor” – competitive analysis should be broad and deep, near term and far term. Your planning team must make some careful choices about what information is needed, and how much time, effort, and expense are justified in getting it.

If you are contemplating new product offerings knowing your competitor’s current offerings and likely next offerings will be useful. Predicting next moves might be an educated guess, but frequently this is better than proceeding in a complete vacuum. Sometimes it may serve you well to know something about your competitor’s core competencies to help predict next moves.

STEEP Influences

Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, and Political (STEEP) elements of the business climate in which your organization operates need to be understood because of the impact on your success and competitiveness. For many organizations regulatory issues are very important.

Evaluation of STEEP elements should be ongoing. The basic purpose in this evaluation is to try and predict future trends and events so as not be blindsided by them, and to have the capability to quickly respond if any such events occur. “Getting up to speed” on STEEP factors may require educational seminars, customer and supplier visits to gain a perspective on future development and trends.

SWOT Analysis

Using the information gathered in assessing the present situation your planning team needs to break it down it and extract elements of special importance to your organization. This process is called SWOT analysis.

SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It is a simple tool used to define the product, service or situation in the context of the market it serves. The tool can be used to identify opportunities to strengthen an organization and spur growth. It can also be used to seize new ground. SWOT analysis has two main components:

  • Issues that are internal to the organization (Strengths and Weaknesses)
  • Issues that are external to the organization (Opportunities and Threats)

Contact us if you would like a complimentary SWOT Analysis Worksheet to conduct internal and external scans of your organization.

Employee Feedback and Development

Awareness of the attitudes, morale, needs and wants of your employees play a large role in developing your organization’s plan. Numerous mechanisms such as, employee surveys, lunch and learns, formal development evaluations, etc. can be used to capture the voice of the employee. Some questions you may want to address for employee feedback and development are the following:

  • Does two-way communication between employees and management occur on a regular basis? Is it having the desired effect?
  • Does the organization survey employee opinion systematically?
  • Is employee training conducted at regular intervals, and is it closely aligned with the organizations’ strategic needs?
  • Are employees intimately familiar with the Vision, Mission, and organizational performance, and do they clearly know their roles in achieving them?
  • Do most employees participate in continuous improvement efforts?

You can probably think of many more additional questions, but this list should help get the dialog started.

In the next blog post we will discuss the strategic vision-defining your broad-brush goal expressing your direction and will.

Quantum Associates, Inc., an independent process improvement consulting firm that helps organizations produce defect-free products and services with less human effort, less time, less space, less capital and at far less cost.

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