When starting the process of strategic planning it is crucial to focus on the key strategic issues. Hence there is a key question: What is a key issue for my organization?
If one walks around in a company and asks several managers you will end very likely with a number of very different ideas what such a strategic issue might be. Sales department might focus on competitors and their pricing, IT will discuss issues like SOA and TCO and finance department will stress budget related issues and financial performance indicators. To a certain degree everyone is right…but it is very unlikely to get an idea of the real key strategic issues.
Hence I would like to present four different approaches that can help you to find the right issues. These recommendations are based on observations in practice. Let us imagine that you would be the CEO of your company.
Approach 1: You create a list of four to seven priorities for the coming business period. You submit the list to managers who are responsible for brand, functions and so on and so forth. This list is the fundament for your annual strategy meeting, where your management team should discuss the effects of your priorities for their business operations and units. After this meeting your strategic planning department (or the department that is responsible for that function) summarizes the outcome and develops a strategic letter (memo, note) for the entire organization. It might helpful that specific organisational objectives will be linked with the strategic discussion results.
Approach 2: You prefer a bottom up process? Well, in this case approach 2 can be yours. You organize in-depth interviews, which include all senior managers and executives from business units and corporate headquarter (that depends on your organisational structure…). Your objective is to develop a list of key strategic issues. After this your senior management team reviews the list and submits specific topics to different managers. They have to analyse and to report their findings to your team within 4 to 6 weeks.
Approach 3: You can ask the top managers of your business units to anticipate how a number of specific industrial, social and economical trends might have an impact on their business. They also should describe the threats and chances that might arise from those trends…and of course the way how to tackle them. After this step discussions of financial issues can start.
Approach 4: You and your management team develops a list of 7 to 10 key strategic questions and submit these question to your organisation (e.g. to your business units). The executives have six months time to analyse the issues and to develop proposals. After six months all proposals will be discussed in a strategy meeting or strategy workshop.
Each of these four approaches has different benefits. Now it is your turn to choose the one that might fits best to your organization and your managers. Furthermore you might also consider this 5 step method by Kevin Stirtz.