Management is a strategic process and the steps in that process are critical to ensure the success of a business, business unit or individual. The steps in effective strategic management include attaining internal and external inputs, developing goals and objectives, developing strategies and tactics and assigning responsibility and accountability for achieving business objectives.

Considering Inputs

Strategy isn't created in a vacuum. Business managers need to consider input from both internal and external sources to help them make sound decisions. Internal inputs may include such things as sales volumes, employee turnover or customer satisfaction.

External inputs may include market information (e.g. number of potential customers in the market, changes in their numbers and competitive forces), industry information and economic data. All of these inputs serve as the foundation for identifying organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that provide the basis for developing strategy.

Identifying Goals

Effective strategy must include the identification of goals and objectives. The organization and its employees need to know what is expected of them to perform their assigned tasks and functions and focus their energies on the right priorities. Goals are broad statements of future direction -- "increase market share."

Objectives are more specific and include detail on both the specific level of success to be achieved and the timeframe within which it must be achieved. For instance, "increase market share in the northern service area by 39 percent by year-end."

Strategies and Tactics

Goals and objectives are supported by strategies and tactics. Strategies indicate, in a broad sense, objectives to achieve and tactics outline, specifically, what will be done to achieve those strategies. For instance, a strategy might be: "introduce new products." Tactics related to that strategy might include: "Conduct market research to identify consumer needs," or "Develop new product prototypes." The development of strategies and tactics should include input from staff members who will be involved in implementation.

Assigning Responsibility & Accountability

Strategic management sometimes falls short once the plans are in place. Assigning responsibility and accountability are important elements of ensuring success. Accountability should go to individuals who will be held accountable for achieving assigned objectives. Establishing metrics that will be gathered and reported on a regular basis will ensure that everyone is aware of progress being made -- or not made. As progress is measured and reported, course corrections may be made to change strategies or tactics to achieve greater results.