Simply put, a strategic direction is a story. Like a story is has a beginning, middle and an end. In a strategic plan, the beginning is the Strategic Assessment, the end is the Vision of Future Success, and the middle is the Strategy. Your strategy states how you plan to move towards your vision over time.
Each strategy is unique to the entity, their market, their culture and their business model, but all should include three milestones:
Now, the first milestone: now doesn’t really mean this week, it means what you can do now, in the next few months to start building the things you need to achieve your vision. It could be more research and deeper planning, or it could be something much more dramatic, like reorganize and let go of a poor performing part of the business/entity.
- In a larger entity, the first milestone is 18 -24 months from the approval of the new strategic plan.
- In a smaller entity, the first milestone could be 3-6 months.
Next, the second milestone: next is the what needs to happen after you get through your first milestone and are really ready to put all your effort toward new key initiatives in the strategic direction. This of the first milestone as the ready, set and the second milestone is the GO!
- In a larger entity, the second milestone starts after the first milestone and ends 18 -24 months later, so 2-3 years from the approval of the new strategic plan.
- In a smaller entity, the second milestone is typically the following full planning year.
Then, the third milestone: this is not the vision. No planning process can define how to completely achieve the vision. If it can, you have not created a vision, you have defined a goal. The third milestone articulates what you expect to be focusing on once you are fully engaged the organization in the new strategic direction and it is working. What new opportunities will come your way? What is the next set of new markets will you be ready to enter or what new products will you be ready to launch? How will your entity have evolved?
- In a larger entity, the third milestone should be achieved 5-6 years from the approval of the new strategic plan. This way the new strategic direction defines a direction through 10 years with a high-level plan to guide it with some level of detail through the 5th or 6th year.
- In a smaller entity, the third milestone is typically two years out. This gives the entity time to respond to conditions (favorable or unfavorable) that arise and have a large impact on the ability to execute strategic goals without too many months between planning discussions. Stated differently, the planning cycles in smaller entities should be shorter.