The best way to understand your organization’s current state is to conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. A SWOT analysis provides wide-ranging insights about your company from multiple perspectives. Not only does it reveal where things are going well and where you can improve internally, but it also requires you to evaluate the environment outside your company to understand potential threats and opportunities you can minimize or leverage (respectively) going forward.
To glean these insights, you’ll need to do some information-gathering from your employees, external stakeholders, and even your customers (where relevant). You can read more about how to do a SWOT analysis in this article, but in brief, here are the questions you should ask:
Once you’ve gathered all this information, study it. Identify seemingly significant points, things to follow up on, and trends. Also, look for connections between the areas. For example, some of your strengths may naturally support the identified opportunities, and eliminating certain weaknesses might present additional opportunities.
Next, with your SWOT insights in mind, you can begin thinking about where you want your company to go. This direction should be reflected in your organization’s mission and vision statements. A mission statement articulates your purpose—why the organization exists and the value of the product or service it provides. A vision statement clarifies the direction in which your organization is headed by stating the outcomes you expect to achieve in the near future.
Another element to consider is your core values; these define your organization’s fundamental beliefs and practices.
All of these elements are a foundational part of your organizational structure, and form the linchpin of your strategy.
The SWOT analysis you completed in Step 1 is helpful because it serves as an objective assessment of your company—what you’re good at and your weaknesses. Knowing this information will help you formulate realistic goals, and create a plan that the organization is reasonably prepared to execute. Without those insights, it’s possible you could be busy developing a business strategy that’s categorically beyond your reach.
Another way of articulating your strategy is with an OAS statement:
Before you begin to write a business strategy, choose a strategy management framework to hold it all together.
A strategy framework brings structure to your plan, connecting your projects and initiatives with the outcomes you hope to achieve. It serves as support for your organization’s daily activities, and makes your priorities clear to everyone involved. Think of it as the master plan for your strategy, unifying all activities organization-wide.
There’s no shortage of frameworks to choose from, including (our favorite) the Balanced Scorecard (BSC), Theory of Change (TOC), and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).
Now that you know where you’d like to go, it’s down to the details of creating a business strategy—what can you do that will get you there? Note that the framework you’ve chosen may use specific terminology, but you’re still essentially going through the same exercise: clearly identifying high-level goals and performance measures.
Using the Balanced Scorecard as an example:
In ClearPoint, you can structure your plan with common elements, creating linkages (as many as needed) to show alignment. You can also customize the terminology you use to match the framework you’re using.
Tip: Use the SMART framework to create objectives.
SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. This methodology will guide you in creating goals that are clear and achievable. Each objective you create should be:
Learning how to write the business strategy itself is only part of the strategic planning process. Once you’ve created your plan, there are a few more steps to complete in order to set yourself up to execute it successfully.
Execution is the most difficult part of strategy. It’s easy to generate excitement around the initial writing of a plan; the hard part is sustaining momentum over the space of three to five years. Doing the following as part of the planning phase will put you in the best possible position as you begin strategy implementation:
No matter how good your business plan is, it won’t work if your co-workers at the executive, management, and employee levels don’t know how to contribute to it, or if they simply don’t know about it. That’s why you need to create a strategy communication plan that builds awareness.
A strategy map is a visual representation of the things your organization must do well in order to execute its plan successfully. It is easy to understand and share. For more ideas on how to communicate strategy effectively, read this article.
To know if you’re making progress, develop a plan to report on your strategy regularly. The best way to do that is with strategy reporting software like ClearPoint. ClearPoint bridges the gap between strategy creation and execution, helping you to maintain focus on the big picture (your objectives) while managing all the operational pieces that will bring it to fruition.
In ClearPoint, you can work within the framework of your choice (Balanced Scorecard, OKRs, etc.) and focus on the data that drives results.
In addition, they are more likely to stick with strategy execution for the long haul because they can:
Developing a business strategy is only a prelude to the hard work entailed in putting it to work. But with preparation and the right tools, you have a very good chance of being the kind of organization that actually accomplishes what it sets out to do. If you want to talk more about how ClearPoint can help, please reach out.