Too many leaders (CEOs, Presidents, VPs, Managers) send their employees mixed messages on which direction an organization is heading. This is not surprising because without a plan, how can your employees and other stakeholders work toward a common goal? The answer is they do not. You end up with an organization where everyone is trying to connect the dots and doing a lot of guesswork.
As a business leader, strategic planning will force you to look into the future, and the importance of this exercise cannot be overstated. Your strategic planning decisions and actions will shape and guide your organization over the next year or more, so think of the strategic plan (output) as your roadmap. A roadmap with your organization's goals, necessary actions and all other vital elements to ensure you reach the intended goal. It doesn't need to be perfect or have all the answers, but it does need to give everyone in your organization a clear direction. This is how you get everyone to row in the same direction, and with most organizations, you achieve this when employees get an opportunity to influence decisions, so if possible include them in your strategic planning sessions.
With regard to the scope and timeline, it will vary from organization to organization, but a strategic plan usually covers 1-3 years, and some strategic plans even go beyond that. Factors such as organization size, type of industry, trends and environmental issues will often drive the timeline for you. However, the timeline is not as important as the clarity of your plan. A good strategic plan may only be a few pages long, as long as it outlines clear goals, as well as necessary steps and responsibilities. Also, it should be simple enough for everyone in your organization to read and understand.
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