How to Make A Strategic Plan Work For Your Business

by Rachel Steininger

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A strategic plan is a powerful tool that can elevate your business to new heights. It's not just a stack of papers filled with tedious information; it's a roadmap for success. 

But let's be honest, many strategic plans end up gathering dust, forgotten in a drawer or a digital file cabinet. It's time to change that.

In this article, we'll explore how you can transform a boring strategic plan into something that not only motivates you but also creates real momentum for your business.

The Trouble With Strategic Planning

It's time to address the elephant in the room. Many of us have created strategic plans and then ignored them. We put in all that effort, only to stick the plan in a drawer or a file cabinet, never to see the light of day.

This not only wastes our time but also diminishes the potential of our businesses. Let's break free from this cycle of neglect and discover how to make our strategic plans work for us.

Yes, strategic plans can be boring. They can feel like a snooze fest. But here's the reality: successful companies leverage the power of strategic planning to drive their growth and achieve their goals. 

More Than A Thought Exercise

Strategic planning is not just a thought exercise; it's a proven way to get things done. 

  • 75% of successful companies have a formal and pre-established system to inform on and manage their strategy.  (Palladium, 2007)
  • Organizations able to successfully unlock the capacity to execute new growth strategies increase profitability by 77%.  (Gartner 2021)
  • 77% of successful companies have an established process to translate their strategy into actionable terms and evaluate it on a day-to-day basis.  (Palladium, 2007)

Successful companies use strategic planning to get ahead and achieve their goals.

But how do we turn a boring strategic plan into something that actually transforms your business?

How To Make A Strategic Plan Work

To make your strategic plan go from boring to soaring, we'll walk through five key steps revolving around the things you need to embrace or eliminate to make a strategic plan work for your small business.  

(Can you get behind less work for more results?  I certainly can).   

Step 1: Embrace Flexibility and Focus

Strategic plans don't need every last detail mapped out. Rather, it's about finding the right balance between long-term goals and short-term initiatives. 

It's tempting to map out every detail of your plan, but that’s driven from a false sense of security.  Your plan does not need to be perfect and in fact, allowing yourself some flexibility goes hand in hand with the progress you’ll make along the way.

By putting the effort into action, rather than anticipation, you can move up the resourcing and achievement of the more advanced strategies you’d like to get to in your plan.  That way you can reach milestones faster and achieve success beyond your initial expectations.

Step 2: Break Free from Same Old, Same Old Thinking

To avoid that strategic plan sitting forgotten and your efforts wasted, it's vital to explore new possibilities, especially when exploring the options available that will get you where you want to go. 

While some tried and true strategies have their place, remember what “tried and true” really means.  It’s not “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”  Instead, tried and true means you've tested that approach for effectiveness.  And that you have objective data to assess for continued workability, data that can indicate the need for fresh perspective and adjustment.  

Even with established processes in place, there’s room for creative thinking and outside perspective.  Your business changes.  The economic environment changes.  And you will change too.  

So don't just leave that brainstorming phase to the same old tactics that may no longer yield the desired results. Get creative and explore new possibilities. Seek external insights from your customers, industry trends, and other sources. Don't be afraid to think outside the box and try new approaches. 

Allowing outside ideas to be a part of your strategic plan will help ensure you have the best-fit action plan.  By breaking free from the same old routine, you open doors to exciting opportunities for growth and set yourself in a position to gather momentum rather than gathering dust.  

Step 3: Keep It Concise and Actionable

A strategic plan doesn't have to be a lengthy document. In fact, simplicity and focus are key. Too often, strategic plans end up as lengthy documents that no one wants to read, containing details that are no longer relevant.

Condense your plan into a one-page summary that captures your mission, vision, values, and key priorities. Be clear about your goals and outline the actionable steps to achieve them. 

Even go so far as to make this something your team members and you could refer to daily, without having to wade through fluff and nonsense.  

To be clear, there may be detailed analysis that has gone into building your strategic plan. And this may be something you keep as back up data or for objective comparison when tracking the success of your action taking.  But in your day-to-day sharing of the plan, by keeping it concise, you'll ensure that everyone can understand and rally behind it.

Step 4: Infuse Your Plan with Emotion and Purpose

Logic alone won't ignite excitement and motivation. Your strategic plan should evoke emotion and a sense of purpose.  

Goals without passion are just empty words on a page and won’t sustain you when the action taking gets tedious or the distractions are waving their urgent demands in front of your face.  So anticipate and plan for the fact that you won’t be as excited in a few weeks or months as you are today.  

To inject some oomph and excitement into your strategic plan, envision the impact of achieving your goals on the upside and recognize the consequences of inaction on the downside.

More specifically, tap into the vision and higher purpose behind your goals. 

How will achieving these goals impact your business? 

Why are they important to you?

Additionally, consider the cost of inaction. 

What will happen if you don't reach your goals?

By infusing your plan with higher purpose and emotion (not just logic), you'll create a driving force that motivates you and your team to take action.

Step 5: Foster Transparency and Collaboration

While you can build a strategic plan in isolation, the execution of that plan goes beyond a solo endeavor.

But there’s often a reluctance on the part of business owners to share the details of their goals, especially monetary ones, with their team members.  That reluctance may even be backed up by some bad experiences, like when employees assume that higher revenue goals must mean money is free-flowing and easy to come by.

And yet, holding cards too close to the vest can create confusion and even resentment.  

When you ask for something “extra” from your team members, which is common when you're in pursuit of your strategic plan achievement, they might question the need.  That extra project or task takes them away from the day job you hired them to do.  And they may or may not appreciate the bigger picture like you do. 

So if you want their help, you’ll be served by providing them with a degree of context.  

Involve your team members in the process. Provide that higher level purpose, share goals out loud, and create an environment that encourages collaboration. And be transparent in increasing degrees as you build trust and empower team members to contribute their best efforts. 

By fostering transparency and collaboration, you'll create a shared vision that propels your business forward.  A strategic plan is a tool for collaboration and collective action but only when it’s taken out of the vacuum and brought into the light.

Transform Your Strategic Plan

Congratulations!  You now have the tools to transform your business with an effective strategic plan. By embracing flexibility, breaking free from the same old tactics, keeping it concise and actionable, infusing emotion and purpose, and fostering transparency and collaboration, you'll turn a boring plan into a soaring success. 

Don't let your strategic plan gather dust; let it become a driving force for growth and achievement. Implement these steps, and watch your business reach new heights. 

Are you ready to take action and see your business soar?

The power is in your hands.

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