Every business needs to have a strategic plan because without one, a company lacks direction and may struggle to set and reach pivotal benchmarks. Your strategy should combine your goals and market research with your corporate values and mission statement.
This long-term plan is much more than any single objective, mission statement or guiding value. A strategy plan is rarely shown to people outside of your organization, and as such, it typically contains language that assumes a level of understanding of your company.
The components of a corporate strategic plan include vision and mission statements, SWOT analysis and SMART goal setting.
Components of Corporate Strategy
Strategic planning can take years. Depending on your company’s size, scope and needs, you may even develop separate strategic plans for different objectives within your business. For example, your sales department may have a specific goal that you want to hit, and your research and development team may have a different one.
This isn’t to say that you need to have a separate strategy in place for every department or even more than one for your company. The most crucial aspect is that they can be agile and change as your company grows. Your corporate strategic plan outlines your long-term objectives, your vision for the future and proposed market changes. While no one can predict the future, your plan is as close as you can get to a concrete road map.
Planning around potential problems in the future allows you to have a measure of security in your organization. It maps out your vision with actionable steps and clear objectives. It should not be so planned out that it blocks your employees from innovative thinking, however. Instead, an effective strategy is a proactive document that includes potential problems and definitive actions that you can take against them. In short, your corporate strategy is your battle plan, and without it, no one gets marching orders.
Creating a Vision Statement
Corporate strategic planning should include a variety of parts. Each separate part of your planning should speak to a different need or potential for your company. You first need to unify your team. This should be done in the form of a vision statement.
A vision statement is a short, definitive statement that encapsulates your company’s aspirations for the future. It should answer the question “Where are we going?” in clear, motivating language. Without a vision, you can lose sight of what you find essential. Importantly, it keeps your goals in mind for the years to come.
This statement will be more concise than other sections of your business’s strategic plan, yet it still must paint a vivid picture of your company’s goals decades into the future. Spend time on your vision statement to ensure that it truly speaks to your goals and lays out plans for the future. The vision statement’s purpose is to be a clear guideline for planning your future courses of action. Your vision statement should be your company’s guiding principles and a northern star that your company will continually follow.
Examples of Vision Statements
Nike is one of the most widely known brands on the planet. From professional athletes to Little Leagues, Nike products are known as the gold standard. One of the critical aspects of its success is its clear yet broad vision statement, which is “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. (If you have a body, you are an athlete.)”
Nike wants to inspire, so it takes care to hire spokespeople who align with its core values. Nike is also known for its invention and innovation in the athletic gear market.
Vision statements do not have a required length. For example, TED (technology, entertainment and design) has a clear vision that is told in two words: “Spread ideas.”
Longer Vision Statements
Some vision statements are longer, like Tim Cook’s Apple manifesto: “We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple, not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.
"We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”
Vision Statements vs. Mission Statements
How do you know if you are working on a good vision statement? You should focus on the future and what your organization hopes to become. This differs from a mission statement, which focuses on today and what the organization does at the present time.
While companies often use mission and vision statements interchangeably, it’s important to have one of each. Your vision is for the future, and your mission is ongoing. Your mission statement is intended to back up your vision by being the foundation of your company.
Mission Statement Basics
In essence, your mission statement must describe the “how” of what you are doing to attain your vision for your company. A good mission statement is one that, if followed, will enable you to reach your vision. The mission statement of your company should be timeless and encompass your purpose and aspirations.
It can include your vision statement as part of the verbiage and should at least reflect the words and feel of it. Remember that a mission statement can describe a process for how you intend to reach your dreams.
Examples of Mission Statements
Disney is a powerhouse company that has taken character marketing and perfected it in a way that few other companies can. The company’s mission statement is: “To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products.” There is a focus on differentiated content and services so as to maintain the company’s position in the market. This particular mission statement is not very long.
Another short mission statement comes from Starbucks, the world's leading coffee company. Starbucks thrives on the culture that it has created within its stores and caters to people from all walks of life. They strive to: “Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow.” Mission statements do not have to reach any specific length, but they do have to mesh with your company’s core values.
SWOT Analysis in a Strategic Plan
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The purpose of a SWOT analysis in a company’s strategic plan is to provide a situational investigation around its place in the market. By sitting down during the strategic planning process and working on a SWOT analysis, you can drill down on high-level concepts. SWOT analysis is an important part of most types of corporate strategy.
Strengths in SWOT Analysis
Your company has various strengths that it can rely on to see it through difficult times. Through an analysis, you may also see that you’re not properly illustrating some of your strengths or using them to your best advantage.
For example, if you are a local company that spends a lot of time giving back to the community, highlighting that could bring in new potential customers and employees who want to contribute to their community through their workplace.
Weaknesses in SWOT Analysis
Every company has weaknesses or pain points. Weaknesses can be caused by key staff leaving, legal changes or new competition. It’s important to stress that while working on your SWOT analysis, you aren’t looking to blame anyone for a weakness.
Instead, you should focus on what you can do to address that weakness on a companywide level. How the weakness happened or was revealed doesn’t matter as much as fixing the problem does.
Your weaknesses could also be polled with comment cards from the general employee population. However, be aware that most people will use a comment box to vent. This isn’t a bad thing because people need to let off steam from time to time. It can also draw attention to things like problems in coverage that you need to address.
Opportunities in SWOT Analysis
Finding new opportunities for your business is one of the best ways to help it grow into a larger company. In this case, you may want to open up a comment box for your staff as a way to shed light on possible opportunities that you may not have noticed on your own. For instance, an opportunity could be the lack of companies providing your particular suite of services in a given location.
Threats in SWOT Analysis
A threat is anything that could lower your market position in your industry. New competition, sometimes in the form of a more-established company coming into your area, can change your marketing strategies and inform other action plans.
Action Items in a Strategic Plan
Also known as an action plan, action items strive to fix weaknesses and mitigate the threats that you found during your SWOT analysis. Your action items should be a step-by-step procedure that is handed out to specific departments or teams to implement. Each objective requires a clear plan that details as many of the steps as you think will be needed. You can leave the creation of the benchmarks for the project to the managers, or you can provide them with a detailed list of how to accomplish the action items.
You should also include your long-term goals and annual objectives in your strategy. Keeping all of your long-term objectives in one document is extremely useful when you are conducting meetings or check-ins with employees or with shareholders. Updating everyone on your collective progress, even small progress, can have a lasting positive impact on employees.
SMART Goal Setting
Your annual objectives should be game plans that speak to what you found during your SWOT analysis. Known as SMART goal setting (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based), this process keeps your goals in mind and helps to keep them grounded. This is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that if employees cannot see themselves reaching a goal, they may become demoralized and may even stop achieving at the same level.
- Specific: Clearly define what will be done.
- Measurable: You should be able to immediately see an employee's place in the process.
- Achievable: You need to make sure your employees can reach the target.
- Realistic: Even if something is in the realm of possibility, it doesn’t mean that it is a realistic goal. All of your action items must be firmly in the “reachable” category.
- Time-Based: Set a time frame for your project's completion and stick to it.