Before you begin your strategic planning session, stop and do a self-check to see if you are ready. I have seen many people start the process by announcing they know what they want. That’s not realistic because circumstances change so fast, but a vision of where you’d like to go is a real plus. I have seen other groups start a strategic planning session by designing a business plan or doing a SWOT analysis (Strengths; Weaknesses; Opportunity; Threats). Neither one is a good starting point.
Starting Your Strategic Plan
My experience tells me that being overly specific in defining your destination is too restrictive. A strategic plan explores where you want to go. The starting point for that discussion merges your values, your experiences, your needs, and your expectations.
So where should you start? I recommend beginning with personal values and gradually building to a composite set of values for the group. Then define the list of needs that could be addressed by the business.
Now, what about your partners or team members? Fold in their experiences and the expectations of the group, and you have enough information to start a plan. If you begin planning or spending money too early, you can get your team in a bind. You can become a slave to a decision that was made before you understood what you wanted. Having a strategic plan guides your business decisions so they are in line with your goals and wants.
Defining Your Values
Bringing a team together with a common goal is the best incentive to start the process. It will be the combined experiences, skills, and values of your team that will create the strategic plan. Start by identifying the values that are important to you. Add the values held by your team. Below are common values we often find when we meet with a team:
- Authenticity - Don’t act differently in front of your parents, friends, co-workers, in-laws, and strangers. Stay your true self. If you keep changing who you are it is hard for people to relate to you.
- Honesty - Be honest about who you are and what you’ve done. You’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror with pride. Keep your promises, and people will know you as being dependable.
- Joyfulness - Life is short. Do things that bring you joy. This may not be possible all the time, but it should be your intention to seek joy.
- Responsibility - Be responsible for your actions and mistakes. Understand what’s in your control (self-mastery) and fully own it. If you do not own it you cannot change it.
- Love - Build intimate and deep relationships with a few people. Love is defined as an intense feeling of affection for someone, which means that you view someone as desirable based on your beliefs, judgments, and experiences.
- Loyalty - you don’t necessarily have to love someone to remain loyal to them, but if someone loves you then obviously you expect them to be loyal. Loyalty builds trust, and trust is very important. Even though you might not see your old friends, co-workers or team members, stay loyal. But most importantly, stay loyal to yourself.
- Contribute – If you contribute to something, you say or do things to help to make it successful. Contribute to your community, team, family, or culture. Be part of the solution, not the problem.
- Be Present– Become aware of what is going on around you in relationships, at work, and play.
The list of values held by each team member may be different, and that is ok. There will be a set of overlapping values that will represent the team; those will become the values of the business. Before you agree on the makeup of the team, look for values that are not compatible with your personal set. You need to decide if someone with values outside of your list should be on your team. If the values are different but not in opposition to the main set, that is acceptable. Once you define the team and develop your composite list of values, build consensus by asking the team if they can support this list that will represent the business.
There is no absolute correct list of values, but there will be a list that best fits the culture and audience of your business. With that list in hand, you can start to gather more information by doing a SWOT analysis. As you collect data, your list of values and perhaps even your team may change. After everything settles down, you can start the strategic planning session. You now have a defined starting point to build your business.
Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.Catalyst Group is a national mentoring company that works with professional practices and small businesses in designing common-sense plans that incorporate profitable business practices with a balanced work life.