Strategic Planning and Execution: The Guidepost for Business Success

Posted by Dean Harms on Mar 31, 2022 3:45:32 PM

IMEC strategic planning blog

Guidepost: A post, at the intersection of 2 or more roads bearing a sign for the guidance of travelers.

It’s the year 2022. The challenges now and over the next several years in manufacturing are significant. The landscape is everchanging with much of this driven by technological and societal change that is advancing us into the new frontier of the 4th Industrial Revolution. So just exactly how do we find our way? How do we focus and work on things that really matter? One thing is for sure, you can follow, or you can lead! And if you lead, what direction do you go and how do you stay the course? To begin, let’s think Strategic Planning and Execution.

Strategic Planning and Execution in the simplest terms is defined as, “setting overall goals for your business and developing a plan to achieve them.” It is designed to create a map for the business to follow.   You need to know what success looks like and if you are heading towards success or not. It’s the idea of putting markers or guideposts on the map to understand that you are to go “this way” and not “that way.”

To start, you take into consideration your business’ current state by understanding where you are at and all your available resources. This is a key point in understanding not just your resources but your assets. This understanding provides clarity of the reality of the current state and your ability to move forward. Strategic Planning must include your vision or your desired future state. So, you know where you are starting, that you have the resources, and you know where you want to finish. Now the question is, how do we get there?

Let’s think action plan. This is defined as the steps or tasks you need to complete to achieve the goals of the strategic plan. But more than a plan, it should be an approach which helps focus ideas and decide what steps are needed to achieve specific goals. Let’s again think guideposts - that sign to keep us focused and directed. Sounds easy enough. You know your current state, you know you have resources, and you have the plan. It should now just be a matter of time before all the actions are completed and the goals achieved! But wait, it never seems to be that easy? There must be something more.

Now let’s think execution, which can be defined as translating strategy into specific objectives, assign to employees, implement measurement tools, and then hand out rewards. It’s a formula of having an input into a process that delivers an output. So, if everything is aligned, execution is like flipping the switch and it all works – at least in theory. The reality is that even with a terrific strategy, it won’t mean much without effective execution. There in lies the saying “execution trumps strategy.” And the biggest killer of your execution is the demands of your day job.

A guidepost represents a conceptual, daily decision-making tool that supports execution as they are the direction markers that helps you to decide to go “this way” and not “that way.” Examples are varied but typically determine if a decision or direction is going to generate a desired result or not. Will it generate profit? Will it improve culture? Will it impact productivity? Will it complete a task? It’s that tool used to generate a yes or no response and avoid making low payoff activity decisions that consume valuable time and resources leading to zero impact. It’s different than goals that state, “we will achieve X by a Y time and produce a Z value.” The guidepost is that visualized sign that supports the daily decision making to sustain the execution of the action plan. The guidepost as a tool allows you to visualize if you are on course and indicates that you are heading in the right direction.

When you navigate the shifting winds of daily activity along with the endless flow of data, the question becomes, will this decision lead me towards the objective or away from that objective? The guideposts as a visual alignment with your strategic plan will support your more efficient execution of the action plan and keep you on course.

Need help? Contact IMEC to see how we can leverage our resources to support your business goals. 


Dean Harms

Written by Dean Harms

Topics: manufacturing, operations, business growth, strategic planning, strategy

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