Creating a long-term strategy is an intimidating task for most people.
It is a project that can take weeks, or months, to complete, and because most people have little or no experience with strategy creation, most people don’t know where to begin.
Strategy planning continues to become an important skill for leaders and individual contributors to not only possess but to have some degree of experience doing.
Though strategy planning can be a significant endeavor, it is wise to break the large task up into smaller tasks.
The following 5 tips for creating a long-term strategy is meant to help those with little to no strategy creation experience. Using these suggestions will help point you in the right strategic direction and help you develop strategic leadership from the beginning.
1. Plan ahead
Has anyone ever asked you what your two-, five-, or ten-year plan is? This question can also be asked during job interviews worded something like this: Where do you see yourself in two, five, or ten years?
Often times, the purpose of this question is to give the interviewer an idea of how forward-thinking, or strategic, you are. It is possible to look a couple years into the future and see yourself with a high amount of focus. At five years though, the amount of focus diminishes quite a bit, and by ten years, you can just make out colors and light sources.
The value of strategizing five and ten years into the future is that you take the time to pick a target that is appropriate for those time frames, and you do the work to hit them. Anything less than that is a fire-ready-aim-load mentality, and that won’t get you too far.
2. Do your homework
Planning ahead requires that you do a lot of homework. We have a term for this at CMOE, which is Gathering Intelligence. Strategizing can be looked at as a sort of reverse-engineering process.
When you decide what your goals/targets are at two, five, and ten years , you have to take a step—or two, or three—back to figure out how to reach those goals. This will require a significant amount of research, or intelligence-gathering, to accomplish.
3. Move out, and keep moving
Some debate has been had among corporate strategists and business leaders over the past few years as they have attempted to decide what is more important between strategy planning and strategy execution.
An unstable consensus has been established on the side that claims they are equally important, simply stating that strategy without execution is just a set of possibly good ideas, and execution without strategy may be a lot of activity without a point.
When a solid, viable strategic plan is coupled with measured, sustained, well-thought-out execution, the one not only builds on the other—they also keep one another in check.
4. Keep your eyes on the prize
In order to know where you are going, and where you want to end up, you have to know where you are. Fully and honestly understanding the current state of affairs is pivotal to creating strategic targets and goals.
The rule of thumb is to make goals that are SMART: Specific, Measureable, Aligned, Realistic, and Time-bound. A specific goal is detailed and accurately describes what you want to accomplish by a certain date. The more specific a goal is, the easier it will be to identify its attainment.
5. Reassess regularly
The best way to time this step is to look at the length of time your business cycles are scheduled and reassess the strength and viability or the overarching strategy every two to three business cycles. This will give a strategy time to either take root and bear fruit or wither and die.
Keep in mind that a strategy is not a static plan that is set in stone once it is implemented. A true strategy is dynamic and changeable. The strategic horizon changes all the time, and as the organization moves forward, the strategy will need to be updated, modified, changed, and maybe even redone.
Remain flexible as the strategic process plays out. Make changes as they need to be made, keeping the target in full view. As long as the strategy and the execution of the strategy is good, results will come.