Strategic Planning

According to Fred David (2005) in his text Strategic management: concepts and cases, “The only thing certain about the future of any organization is change, and planning is the essential bridge between the present and the future that increases the likelihood of achieving desired results” (p. 123). The planning and assessment of strategies to be implemented is therefore essential in any organization, and in order for this to occur smoothly, four areas should be placed under close scrutiny. These areas include the actions that are to be taken, appropriate organizational structure, people and synergy among those involved (Porter, 1996; DFP, 2003; David, 2005).

Actions

A core requirement for successful implementation is an empowered planning committee (Porter, 1996). This committee needs to possess enough decision-making authority to turn strategic planning into a participatory endeavor as distinct from an anarchic scenario. This does not imply that the planning committee can have special rights or immunity from repercussions since they should still be accountable to the larger community which is the company. What is integral to their role is the absence of second-guessing which can be highly noticeable to the whole team. Instead, they should have sufficient independence so as not to require approval for every step that they implement. Accordingly, the board of directors needs to give a clear indication of its confidence on the planning committee regarding the members’ skills and judgment (David, 2005, p. 229).

This planning committee is tasked to oversee the strategic plan implementation from the very start until its completion. This should involve review of covered work and tracking of these actions through regular progress reports. Before the planning committee takes the initial steps in the implementation, it is beneficial to look back and look around for lessons. This means that a company can learn from its past successes and setbacks. From a review of these events, the committee can extract the best practices that proved effective to the whole group. An important factor should be considered, however, which is the changing consumer needs and preferences. A compatible merging of these two factors can be of essential impact to future efforts to be initiated by the planning committee. In addition, the planning committee can also make use of other companies’ experiences relevant to the actions at hand via competitive analyses (David, 2005). Other companies may have gone through similar changes and should have somehow devised ways to go around loopholes and obstacles. Again, the committee should focus on best practices which may or may not be particularly applicable to the target company. An extensive study and comparison of identical situations and companies in local or international settings would entail series of interviews, literature reviews and database searches (DFP, 2003).

Before the committee evaluates its actions, it should first establish is priorities and identify the plans its wants to implement. The importance of prioritization can never be overemphasized. Without a clear priority, the planning committee and the larger community may be overwhelmed by the immense work to be accomplished (David, 2005, p. 123-24). Prioritization gives rise to the proper amount of focus for the allocation of resources and manpower. This way, goals are easier to achieve compared to a situation when no clear priority is identified, and which leads to diversified attention and resources. Implementation is basically a step-by-step process wherein for every step a goal should be placed. A review and evaluation of each goal achieved is critical for the continuity and completion of the whole action plan (2005). In a way, prioritization and implementation through step-by-step process lends a synergistic characteristic to these endeavors since members are encouraged to direct attention to a single objective and to carry this at a unified pace (Kono, 1994).

Structures

Before the implementation of a strategic plan, the structure of the organization is naturally an important consideration as an area in which changes might be made for a more efficient organization (David, 2005). During the implementation, a creation of a third major functional group which is the planning committee is warranted. However, there is also an option for the enlistment of service of an external agency the role of which is for consultation and assessment of the organization’s function and performance during the structural changes (2005). If the board is to be restructured, then the focus of the changes is obviously its members. Assessment of each functional role needs to be identified in relation to relevance and performance. A minor board restructuring may involve addition or change of functions while comprehensive restructuring may involve a complete reshuffle. Restructuring of the staff is more complex as the hierarchical, group and functional interrelationships should be considered in addition to the large number of people concerned (DFP, 2003; Porter, 1996).

A successful implementation of structural changes relies heavily on clear identification of roles, functions and responsibilities (David, 2005). An interconnection of such positions likewise necessitates careful balancing. Specific structures may fit different types of organizations and industry. Evaluation of similar external organizations may prove helpful in designing appropriate organizational structure. Risks and problem areas can also be gleaned through such efforts although elucidation of benefits should be clearly the primary objective (DFP, 2003).

People

Three factors are deemed necessary for the success of a strategic plan implementation. These are the inclusion of all organization members, the role of the senior management and the sharing of responsibility of these groups (David, 2005; Porter, 1996). Strategic planning should involve all members of the organization. This includes the company staff, serving and future board members, consumers and partner organizations. The objective is to integrate the opinion and suggestion of each sector toward the development of a more efficient strategic plan. The weight of input of each sector would depend on their relativity of their role in the organization (DFP, 2003; Porter, 1996).

From these sectors, committees or task forces can be created as required by the strategic plans and implementation. Therefore, the objective is representation of each sector without sacrificing the efficiency and size of these newly installed groups and of the program as a whole. Moreover, emphasis on each sector’s strengths and weaknesses would be very beneficial since frameworks can be easily laid while future problem areas can be faced with specific contingency plans (David, 2005; DFP, 2003).

Senior management plays a crucial role in strategic plan implementation. Senior management should take a hands-on and active participatory role for the success of the implementation (David, 2005; Kono, 1994). Written and verbal endorsement of the planning committee itself, plans and achievements are very tangible signs of support from the senior management. In addition, senior management is primarily expected to assure the different company sectors of the availability of funds and resources for the completion of the strategic plans. This is a very direct way of promoting the efforts of everyone involved and would greatly contribute to overall success. In terms of responsibility, both the management and the board are expected to be liable to the actions and decisions regarding the implementation of the strategic plan. The success of the plans rests on the adoption and performance of the two major branches of these plans. Without these two taking responsibility, the direction of changes cannot be properly laid since responsibility would imply acceptance and commitment along the ranks (2005; 1994).

Synergy

The foremost objective of a strategic plan is to harmonize people towards a common goal for the efficiency of the company (David, 2005). This can be achieved through the steps identified above. For example, prioritization and implementation hinges on the idea of synergy since through timely focus on particular matters, a company might be reasonably expected to achieve its goals. Time and resources are directed towards a particular action through setting up priority areas (2005). Therefore during implementation, the planning committee should make clear the priority steps to serve as rally points that can be evaluated after completion of each step. The importance of the time factor should always be emphasized. During progress reports, these points should be reiterated including the lessons and challenges encountered. Teamwork comes in as a natural tendency through this exercise. Without it, efforts will surely be scattered and devoid of direction (Porter, 1996).

The design of the new company structure should also be an avenue for synergistic feats. Both the management and board of directors should have functional hierarchy and interconnectedness that reflect fluid movement and interaction. Obstacles should be highlighted and accordingly removed even at the planning stage. When the company’s planning committee assesses the roles of the involved employees, this should lead to a better understanding of their potentials as it relates to efficiency and streamlining. The latter is a natural end-result since unnecessary functions should be eliminated (DFP, 2003). Since all of the sectors in the company should be included in the strategic plan implementation.(with the senior management in front and maintaining responsibility together with the management staff) everyone is given an important participatory role that should be indicative of a synergistic relationship.

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