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Think Strategically About the Year Ahead

by Gary Lockwood

This is the time of year when business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals begin procrastinating about doing their annual planning.

Why is this such a daunting task? For many, it's because we imagine annual planning as a huge, time-consuming and difficult chore. What if it was easy and quick?

Here is a simple process for you to plan for next year. It is relatively easy and can be done in a day or two.

  • Phase one is self evaluation of the enterprise
    Here, you'll look at what's important to you, where you're going, what are you all about and what's your prime purpose. Identify the five or six key areas that are important and essential for your business - cash flow, customers, employees, image, growth, productivity and so on.

    In each of these areas, describe as best you can, in writing, what it looks like and what it feels like when you have reached the point in each of your key result areas where you are happy with each. This represents a picture of your future as you prefer it to be.

  • Phase two is about making choices
    To do this, use a scale of 1-10 (10 is wonderful and 1 is lousy) to rate each of the organizational value areas as to how well you are currently living up to that value when compared to your vision of your preferred future.

  • Phase three is to establish priorities
    The hardest and most vital part of thinking strategically is accepting the simple truth that we cannot do all the things we want to do or even all the things that are important.

    Use the completed ratings to select one or two areas where you have the greatest opportunity for improvement in the coming year.

  • Phase four is to develop the action plan
    Get clear about who will do what and when. Start with brainstorming all the possible actions which could move you closer toward your preferred future.

    Group the action items into categories such as marketing, communications, facilities,employees, etc. Usually, 3-5 categories will cover them all (it's OK to have a "Misc." category). Now, go back through each action item in each category to assign a person to be accountable for that action, and to determine when that action item will be complete.

  • Phase five is implementation

Each person must have a clear understanding of his or her individual accountability. If it's just you in your one-person company, you, too, must get clear on how you will accomplish your assigned tasks.

Once or twice a month, stop to review your progress. Celebrate your successes and the progress you are making.

The process of thinking strategically about your business can be one of opportunity and excitement. Through this process, everyone in the organization can understand and commit themselves to a consistent system of values and vision for the future.

The payback is a high return on your investment of time and commitment to the process. An enterprise grounded with a clear direction and a plan to get there will have both focus on what is important and the flexibility to respond to new opportunities.

Here's to a successful year for you and your business!

� 1997 - 2004 BizSuccess All rights reserved. No duplication

About the Author...

Gary Lockwood is Your Business Coach.
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