Does your business have a strategic plan? I don’t mean those concise vision and mission statements that we come up with after a few days of brainstorming. Nor do I mean a set of core values that guide your business and help you dial in ideal opportunities. When I ask this, I mean that next step… the step where we take those nice, concise statements and turn them into a real plan – one with specific, measurable goals, and one that we can hold our stakeholders accountable to. Do you have one of those?

At my business, we drafted our first strategic plan back in 2018. I use the word “drafted” because it was always viewed as a living document. It wasn’t set in stone, but it was made up of specifics that we thought long and hard about and didn’t plan to change for several years. This plan took us through 2021, and we’re revisiting it this year as we continue to evaluate our success, find areas to improve, and chart the course for what’s next. Note to self: don’t wait until one plan is over to make time to intentionally start the next plan… make some overlap!

Our plan includes a key section we call “Critical Goal Categories” where we came up with six key areas that our goals would live within, and then came up with specific goals within each of these that we sought to achieve over the course of 3-4 years. Categories like Process Improvement, Capacity Building, and Employee Development were among the areas we knew we needed to invest in.

This plan was our guiding light for several years. It pointed us to the people we needed to hire next, the types of partnerships we needed to put in place, and the financial environment we’d need to maintain to see those goals come to life. As we reflected on our plan each year, we’d check off a few things, track progress on others, and say “we should really get started on that” to a couple of them.

One thing I’ve noticed – our strategic plan has little to say about technology. It doesn’t say we’ll focus on the C# language or set our sights on a new PSA (Professional Services Automation) tool. It doesn’t even dive into the areas of technology services we’ll focus on, like mobile app development or managed technology services.

I imagine if we looked at your plan, we’d find a similar thread… The tools we use to achieve our goals pale in comparison to the goals themselves. Yes, it’s important to have the right set of tools to achieve high customer satisfaction or increase productivity… but how we get there is not as important as knowing where we want to get to in the first place. In my world, these tools are the technology tools of hardware and software. In yours, they might be the “tech” of a new fleet of vehicles or the mobile app your team uses to do their job. But in the end… tech’s place in our strategic plan is to SUPPORT the plan, not BE the plan.

As we work through our updated plan, I expect to see some recurring themes from the past, but I’m also excited about some of the newcomer goals. I’d love to hear what your own plan looks like, the bumps you’ve experienced, and the successes you’ve seen as you take the time to plan what’s important to you and your team.

For publication in the Business Leader by Chet Cromer