Corporate strategy defines which areas of the industry a company competes in. Business strategy defines how it competes to gain and maintain a competitive edge. Effective strategic planning results in making informed decisions that enable an organization to achieve its goals. A balanced scorecard measuring the performance of a company's mission and policies reflects the progress toward achieving these goals. Analyzing these results and acting to improve deficiencies enable corporate success.
Assessing the Environment
Assessing the current environment involves examining operational data at all levels of the organization and comparing it to financial goals set by company leadership. Investigation reveals if the available personnel and infrastructure support the company business. Comparing data to industry benchmarks provides insight into potential variances, both short and long term.
For example, you might discover many redundant projects progressing concurrently in your company. This drain on resources is inefficient and costly. Further analysis may be necessary. Understanding organizational barriers (so they can be removed) to cross-functional collaboration on a single set of projects is essential before setting any programs in place to minimize them.
Setting the Objectives
Establishing strategic direction based on operational objectives begins by identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats inherent in the system and finding ways to capitalize on the strengths and opportunities and mitigate the risk posed by the weaknesses and threats. Assess your options by determining if proposed actions make economic sense, are possible to achieve under current conditions, and are likely to be acceptable to stakeholders. Building convincing decision trees and what-if scenarios can bolster your case for pursuing a particular path.
For example, if you determine your organization's strength and best opportunity for growth is in your sales force and its weakness is your antiquated demo centers, you may propose realigning corporate budgets to support consolidation of several older demo centers into a single state-of-the-art facility the sales forces has recognized as critical to future customers deals. The benefits resulting from decreased facility space have positive corporate, employee and environmental impact. So the new strategic direction based on analysis is a win for all concerned.
Evaluating the Results
Monitor a corporate scorecard to ensure that strategic objectives reflect a return on investment. Examine areas falling short of expectations to act reasonably with an appropriate intervention. For example, if global customer satisfaction consistently drops in a certain quarter each year, examine customer feedback to elicit trends by product and region. If the root cause appears to be packaging for holiday sales items, institute changes for the next season in compliance with customer suggestions.
Tara Duggan is a Project Management Professional (PMP) specializing in knowledge management and instructional design. For over 25 years she has developed quality training materials for a variety of products and services supporting such companies as Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq and HP. Her freelance work is published on various websites.