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How to Develop a Strategic Plan Your Entire Will Team Support – Part 1

While writing a strategic plan from year-to-year can feel daunting, it doesn’t have to be. 

From ensuring the mission and core values reflect your organization to identifying the most important critical factors and confirming all stakeholders’ voices are considered, it’s no quick task. But when done right, strategic planning can transform your company.

Through a deliberate, holistic process, strategic planning provides a roadmap for success. By defining top priorities and objectives every year, this process is not only inspirational but also tactical.

Many companies do a 3-year or a 5-year plan. However, we’ve found that although long-term planning is essential, too many factors change from year to year to solely rely on this type of planning. 

With an uncertain global environment and ever-changing economic markets, you can’t plan efficiently five years in advance. You need a flexible plan that allows you to be nimble and agile in a changing marketplace. From global factors to smart technologies and workforce challenges, planning one year at a time can transform your business and help you differentiate in the market. 

An adaptable yearly plan allows you to go where the market is going – improving your organization by anticipating challenges, opportunities, and critical factors while preparing for the future. 

Take a Holistic Approach to Strategic Planning

The truth is, you can’t strategic plan in a bubble. 

You need to take a holistic, 360-degree approach to strategic planning if you want to be successful – taking into consideration industry trends, marketplace developments, employee and customer feedback. 

Our strategic planning process has completely transformed our company and improved our bottom line, and it can impact yours too. 

Quick Backstory

Duncan Murphy, the President of Riekes, was first introduced to this specific type of strategic planning when he joined the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association MHEDA board. It is a process that MHEDA embraces and trains others on. And it works!

At the time, Riekes was more than 70 years old in a mature industry.  But after effectively implementing this approach to strategic planning, Riekes transformed into a growth company, differentiating our business and service in the marketplace.  

In this 2-part blog series, we’ll unpack the 12-step strategic planning process, so you have the detailed steps to achieve success. 

Employee engagement is key to success. Let’s start there.

Engaging Employees From the Beginning

There are several ways to get your employees involved. Here are two proven concepts to engage employees early in the planning process. 

The Hedgehog Concept

As you sift through a multitude of critical impact factors and opportunities, consider the following questions: 

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What drives your economic engine?
  • What are you best at? What differentiates you from the competition?

When an initiative overlaps at least two of the questions (see graphic above), it’s worth considering. If it hits all three quadrants, it’ll be high on your priority list. 

There’s often something that your leadership is passionate about, but if it’s not your strength and it doesn’t make you money, consider if it’s worth pursuing.  Vice versa, there may be products that generate a large amount of revenue, but your team lacks passion for that specific solution, it may be wasting your time. 

The Hedgehog Concept helps teams narrow the focus to what they’re passionate about, what they’re good at, and what drives revenue. 

The Planning Process

To make sure you take all of the right steps in the proper order, follow this roadmap for your planning process. Include critical decision-makers who have responsibility for your business’ primary areas, like directors and managers, on your initial planning team. 

As you progress through the steps on the planning wheel (pictured below), look for employees who are passionate about a topic or want to be involved. You don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen, but engagement at all levels is key to success. The vision can come from the top, but the plan’s execution requires commitment at all levels. 

Core Values & Mission

Start the planning process by reviewing your values and mission. 

  • What’s important to you as a company? 
  • What are you good at? 
  • What differentiates your solutions and service in the marketplace? 
  • What do you stand for?
  • Have your mission or values changed since last year?
  • Do you need to update your core values and mission statement as part of this year’s strategic plan?

After you’ve analyzed the foundation of your business – including core values, mission statement, and performance guarantee, it’s time to start planning. 

Step 1: Review Where You are Now 

Start the planning process with a thorough internal assessment. Try to identify areas of concern and opportunities.

  • Where do you stand on your financial goals and budgets?
  • What obvious challenges are you facing?
  • What wins have you accomplished this year?
  • Are there any personnel gaps or key roles to be filled?

Step 2: Review Progress with Last Year’s Plan

Next, review the progress made towards the current year’s plan. Are there key initiatives that have not been completed? If something is important, specific action steps may carry over, even if the entire initiative does not. 

It’s common for activities in the current year to continue to the next year, even if not identified in the Strategic Plan. Not all initiatives can be accomplished in a year, and some are ongoing. Feel free to remove the ongoing activities from the written plan, but don’t forget to revisit them occasionally. 

Step 3: Survey Customers and Employees

Survey and evaluate your key stakeholders to understand how the organization is performing internally and externally. Analyzing customer and employee feedback each year allows you to see if you’re improving year over year or not. Don’t overlook this crucial, insightful step. 

Pay attention to trends in the survey results, but also take into account each comment. Comments can be very insightful and provide a more in-depth understanding of your audience. 

  • Do people understand their roles?
  • Are employees getting the training they need?
  • What’s not working that needs to be fixed?

At Riekes, we give employees anonymity if they choose, but we encourage everyone to include their name so they can be contacted for additional feedback. 

The customer survey uncovers how you’re performing from your customer’s perspective. Break it out by departments so you can gauge each area of your business individually. This survey also includes questions about the business climate and customer growth plans, guiding our budget and customer service efforts for the following year. 

PRO TIP: Approach the customer survey from a solutions provider standpoint. For example, how can you help meet customer challenges?

Step 4: Evaluate the Marketplace 

Gather intel from industry associations, like MHEDA, and see what they publish as critical impact factors for the upcoming year. 

Once you’ve gathered and analyzed survey results, it’s time to evaluate the marketplace. Speak to customers, vendors, and other key people in the industry to identify trends and opportunities. Don’t be afraid to engage with local economists, bankers, and professional networks. 

We’ve found that it’s very enlightening to talk to others. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations, but analyzing the market at a broader level helps us better prepare for the year ahead. 

Step 5: Identify Critical Impact Factors

Next, take all the data you gathered from the previous steps and make a comprehensive list of critical impact factors. As a MHEDA Member, we also have access to an industry level list which is incredibly helpful.

Don’t overthink this step. At this stage, you’re merely making lists and sticking them on the wall. Get every option, idea, opportunity and concern on paper. Anything and everything is considered at this time.

Step 6: Outline and Group Opportunities

Once you’ve identified the critical impact factors, organize and group them into related topics and categories. There are no pre-conceived ideas, simply take ideas that overlap or are closely related and group them. 

This step will help your team identify trends and logical groups, ultimately helping narrow the focus as you build out your strategic plan. 

Once the critical impact factors have been grouped it usually becomes very apparent where to focus your efforts, but more on that in the next post. 

Congrats! You’re halfway through the planning process already! 

Stay tuned for Part 2 on strategic planning. You’ll learn how to select high priority opportunities and turn them into full-flushed initiatives. 

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