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plan-5Planning may take place as a single event over one or multiple days, or it may be a process completed over the course of several months. Either way, it is important that you engage the entire team in brainstorming and providing input to improve, expand, multiply, diversify, manage, contain cost, or increase revenue. In order to leave rank and titles out of the process, which may squash good ideas, it may be a good idea to have an outside party facilitate this portion of the process for you. The facilitators role is to engage everyone and gather input from all parties involved in the process. The goal of the planning process is to develop a direction for the company along with action items that will help you accomplish this direction over the next 3 to 5 years. While this may seem like a long time, these plans are revisited and revised on a regular basis as market conditions and competition changes.

Some effective ways of gathering information include brainstorming options for each of the SWOT analysis items. List the ideas on a white board or flip chart, then rank their priority or importance based on several factors: Revenue, Cost Containment, Reputation, Customer Retention, and Service improvement for example. You can complete the process by having each participant vote for their top 3 choices in each category. This process allows you to begin narrowing ideas down to those the team feels will have the most impact on your business.

Now take this shortened list and quantify what impact will be in the following areas: Revenue, Cost to Execute, Complexity to Execute, Resources needed to Execute. From this information the team can now begin to prioritize initiatives that are both impactful and achievable.

Next, break each initiative down into action plans. Action plans include: Who leads the initiative, team members and resources needed, high-level tasks to be completed, and time line for completion.

Congratulations! You now have a strategic plan.