By William Montgomery, CEO of TEN

Having a strategy enables you to ensure that day-to-day decisions fit in with the long-term interests of the organisation. Without a strategy, decisions made today could have a negative impact on future results. A strategy also encourages everyone to work together to achieve common aims. Most organisations have a strategic plan at the highest level, but some do not communicate it all the way down. A strategy is equally important whether you serve external or internal customers.

Here are ten actions for strategic thinking:

1. Examine the process. There are three distinct phases to developing a new strategy: analysis, planning and implementation. It is vital to devote time and effort to the first two stages, but also to maintain momentum throughout implementation to ensure ultimate success.

2. Think short and long-term. The ability to differentiate between short and long-term thinking and strike a balance between the two is an integral part of strategy. Understand the importance of both in strategic planning and you will find it easier to achieve the right combination.

3. Prepare for strategic success. An effective strategic plan has accurate information, strong ideas, and committed people at it core. Involve the right people from the outset, then encourage them to research facts, and brainstorm for ideas to achieve the best possible plan.

4. Look to the future. Continuous strategic thinking in a changing world is vital if you and your business are to maintain a winning position. Anticipate change rather than simply react to it, and adapt your strategy as necessary to keep moving ahead.

5. Understand your customers. The driving force behind any plan is what the customer wants from you as a supplier. Analyse what your customers buy from you and what their ideal is, then prioritise their needs to ensure that you design your strategy to serve them better.

6. Analyse your competitors. Understanding your customer and meeting their expectations will only result in success if your performance exceeds that of the competition. Analyse your competitors’ capabilities to identify potential opportunities and threats.

7. Determine your competitive advantage. Your distinctive capabilities, or whatever your organisation does that sets it apart, form the backbone of your strategy. Carefully review your analysis in order to create a statement that clearly sums up your enduring competitive advantages.

8. Integrate your strategy. When formulating your plan, make sure that it will integrate well into the organisation as a whole. Its aims must be consistent with the plans of other departments to avoid internal conflict and confusion in the market place.

9. Communicate clearly. For your strategy to succeed, it is vital that everyone who needs to know about it is informed. Communicate your plan to every stakeholder so that they understand what the strategy will do for them, and you will gain their commitment to it.

10. Monitor performance. To keep the plan on track, closely monitor progress in both operational plans and change projects. Organise team reports and signal shortfalls or problems to be corrected, and look at progress across the organisation where it impacts on your plans.

William Montgomery

Through his workshops, William Montgomery has helped hundreds of organisations and schools plus thousands of people to achieve their potential. To discuss your continuous improvement requirements, please call 0117 325 2010 or send a message to mail@askten.co.uk.