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The Strategic Planning Process ‘Market Forces Will Always Determine Strategic Direction’

Author: Bob Ferguson

The Strategic Planning Process

'Market Forces Will Always Determine Strategic Direction'

Over the past 12 to 18 months financial markets worldwide have come under huge financial pressure. This situation will continue for at least the next planning period and more than likely well beyond. An economic downturn is certainly a recognized phase of a normalized business cycle; however the magnitude and potential duration of the current cycle is no doubt unique. As such there has never been a greater need for in depth Strategic Planning.

A well integrated Strategic Planning Process has always been the hallmark of strong Company earnings and positive market share growth among industry leaders. The Process is an annual discipline that puts in place all of the product and project initiatives for the upcoming year as well as the operating initiatives and budgets for each of the business units or functional areas of the company.

The Annual Strategic Planning Process could begin in the latter part of the third quarter with the external Environmental Scan evaluation of the marketplace. The Strategic Planning Team(s) for each business unit would compile the research data. They would then take Senior Management through a detailed review and update of the political changes including the huge potentially positive impact of the 'bailout' action plans of the Barack Obama and Stephen Harper administrations, the 'New Reality' economic operating environment and its potential business consequences, regulatory changes, and social trends for their marketplace.

The next stage would be the competitive environmental update with close attention each key competitor as well as new entrants and those exiting the business. The research data on customer and supplier profile changes that may impact the business going forward is also an essential element. There is no question that both the advancements in technology and the seemingly 'out of the blue' arrival of non traditional competitors may in fact, along with a floundering economy, be the most critical aspects of Strategic Planning in this business cycle.

It cannot be emphasized enough this 'mission critical' aspect of the Strategic Planning Process. It has often been said that companies of all sizes that either go bankrupt or enter Chapter 11, don't plan to fail, they just fail to plan. They tend to embraced internalized, very linear planning processes with little consideration of their operating environment.

In larger companies this stage of the process could take upwards of two months, for smaller organizations, somewhat less. But irrespective of organizational size the process is a key annual attribute of the 'excellence' companies that have long been the topic of the Tom Peters/Robert Waterman 'In Search of Excellence' writings on America's best run companies.

All too often the road of an internalized strategic planning process with only a cursory look at the traditional competition has led to market share self destruction. A good case in point may come from the portable devices industry. Did Sony Corporation see Apple USA coming? Quite possibly not. As a very nontraditional competitor, how could the Apple iPod and Apple iTunes come into an already overcrowded marketplace; put a very significant stake in the ground with products that were more than double the price and take huge market share away from Sony Walkman, Sony Discman and Sony Watchman, among others?

Again, as an example, was the Strategic Planning Process at Nokia Corporation, the world leader in the cell phone industry, too focused on traditional product and traditional competition? How could Apple iPhone and iPod Touch or even Blackberry, come into a very price point competitive marketplace, create demand with multiple function products and grab big chunks of market share? Nokia Corp. just announced (03/18/09) another layoff of 1700 employees worldwide which followed the closure of a research center and layoff of 320 jobs. Nokia had also made 2300 temporary job layoffs a month earlier.

There are similar examples in almost every industry segment. There has already been too much written about GM, Ford and Chrysler and how, in the early years they basically ignored the entry of Honda, Toyota and Datsun (now Nissan) into the North American automotive marketplace. All too often a company's greatest strength ultimately becomes their biggest weakness. For many decades the power of the UAW/CAW in collective bargaining for wages, benefits and working conditions represented in many ways the solid foundation of the North American auto industry in attracting and keeping a skilled workforce. Today it is arguably its biggest weakness.

In more recent years both KIA and Hyundai have also come on the scene. A market that was characterized by: (1) huge barriers to entry, (2) billions of dollars of upfront costs and (3) brand loyalty competitive forces. As the 'Big Three' continued to embrace their 'Big Block' strategy, market research probably pointed to a very significant quality/fuel efficiency/price point advantage for potential new entrants that history has shown represented a huge opportunity. On the subject of brand loyalty, there is new brand loyalty around the Toyota Prius, marketed to the new cost and environmentally 'green' conscious consumer who wants an efficient car that can plug-and-play with all of the latest media. Again, a corporate strategy targeted to a specific market segment that has left the competition scrambling.

With those questions then, what are the answers? The answer to all these questions is simple. The Strategic Planning Process is the first step within the discipline of Business Process Management. The follow-up steps are then Business Case Methodology to ensure that each and every meaningful Company initiative is accompanied by a detailed Business Case for Senior Management and/or Board approval.

The next stage in Business Process Management is either the Product Development Process or the Project Management Process that represents a disciplined, staged workflow process to ensure on time/on budget results. There are 'go and no go' check points for timely reporting back to Senior Management/Board within each process. The final stage of the completion of a project would be its transfer into Operations. The final stage of the completion and launch of a product would be the transfer of product responsibilities into the Product Management Process.

Whether it is a Super Bowl Champion, a World Series Champion an Olympic Champion, a College Champion, High School Champion or a Corporate Champion the process is very similar. To each discipline there is a process and within the process there are fundamentals. Embrace the process and become a fanatic at the fundamentals.

About the Author:

Bob Ferguson - President/CEO of BTG-Business Transitions Group Inc. Email: bferguson@businesstransitionsgroup.com Website: www.businesstransitionsgroup.com BTG is a leading provider of Business Process Management tools and templates. Bob Ferguson has had a business executive career that spans 33 years with the most recent 15 years as President/CEO of a broad cross-section of companies in the United States, Canada and Overseas.

Article Source: ArticlesBase.com - The Strategic Planning Process 'Market Forces Will Always Determine Strategic Direction'

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