There are very few companies that can say their business is the same today as it was five years ago. Change is a fundamental and common element in today’s business environment. Every company is confronted with change, which comes in many different forms and from multiple directions. However, when a company is unable to manage change proactively and effectively, employees can lose direction and struggle to maintain their levels of customer service and enthusiasm, thereby limiting the business’s ability to succeed over the long term.
The challenge lies in learning to proactively plan for the roadblocks as well as the opportunities that change can create. Many executives tend to feel that while change is inevitable, numerous elements are often outside their control, and so they may not act quickly enough to confront change. Now, more than ever, quick and constructive action in the face of change is required to remain competitive and sustain a vibrant business.
A strategic plan is a powerful tool used to drive growth, monitor change and provide a vision for the company’s future. Published surveys have shown less than 10 percent of businesses have a strategic plan, and a significant percentage of those that do have a plan do not actually apply it to their budget. While approximately 40 percent of businesses prepare budgets, these cannot be considered strategic plans, as they do not account for future opportunities. The typical budgeting process uses previous growth rates as a starting point or selects a conservative growth target, such as a five-percent increase. These budgets are not associated with driving toward a planned outcome.
A true strategic plan addresses change and aggressively attacks the issues affecting the long-term financial viability of the business, including the:
- impact of globalization
- change in the demographics of target markets
- adoption of innovation and technology
- change in labor dynamics
- personalized marketing demands of customers
- changing government regulations
The traditional top-down approach to addressing change and implementing improvements in an organization may not be as effective or appropriate in today’s business environment. The process is evolving from one that was about direction and control to one that emphasizes facilitation and empowerment. Involve others from your team as well as someone who can be independent and objective (such as one of your business advisers) as you brainstorm ideas for adapting to change. Your strategic planning process should utilize a structured framework and should also include your marketing, human resources, operations, finance, technology and customer service departments. Involving these areas is essential to generating new ideas and formulating your plan. To ensure the plan’s success, make sure you:
- document the strategies and actions from the ideas
- inform the team of the direction
- design an accountability plan
- implement the strategies identified
A successful strategic planning approach also involves engaging all of your employees so each accepts ownership for the company’s vision and strategic plan and adopts it as their own, thus inspiring them to carry the plan through to completion. In a nutshell, modern strategic planning brings out the best in your people, removing their traditional barriers to change. By engaging the entire company, you secure the power, resources and energy necessary to reach your company’s goals, while providing your employees with the feeling that their input is valued.
To remain competitive and grow financially, companies must evolve their culture to embrace and thrive on change, generating ideas and empowering action. If you do not act now to influence your future, someone else will. Your vision is your future; planning and managing change will help you live out that vision an secure a successful future.