Rethink Your Strategy Before It Rethinks You
By Doug Fiedler
In many hotel management companies, September and October mark the beginning of the budgeting process for the next year. But before you start your budgeting, you might be well served to review and update your Strategic Plan.
Challenge Questions: Strategy
Do you have a written strategic plan that has been updated in the last 12 months?
Does your senior management team know and understand all aspects of the plan?
Is your plan more than four pages long?
In today's fast-changing business environment, it is critical to have a written business plan that is up to date and has the full support of your senior management team. Tragically, too many companies don't have a plan, haven't reviewed it recently, or the plan is so long it becomes burdensome instead of enabling. Even worse, the plan is laden with tactical execution points instead of having a true strategic vision for the future.
Best Practices for Strategic Plans
- Investing in time. It should only take a day or two to create or update your plan. Anything more will result in prolonged, distracting discussions that will frustrate your participants.
- Investing in place. Schedule the meeting off-site in a location that is free of distractions and make accommodations for a small social event, even if it is dinner out in a competing hotel or resort.
- Investing in people. Schedule the senior management team well in advance. Consider inviting a bright rising star from the middle management team as a wild card to bring a fresh perspective to the discussion.
- Investing in preparation. At least three weeks before the meeting, send out up to five thought-provoking questions that your participants can consider before they arrive.
- Investing in creative thinking. The planning process should include stretch goals that are practical and some that go well beyond practical to almost unimaginable.
- Investing in differentiation. In today's economy, it is all too easy to become a commodity, even in the hotel business. Think hard about what distinguishes your company. What makes your company the hotel company of choice? What makes employees want to work for you?
- Investing in outside resources. Creating a strategic plan is best accomplished with the assistance of a non-interested third party. As a professional facilitator of strategic planning sessions, I ask probing questions that further the conversation and lead to a deep and rich conversation. This can lead to a dramatically improved outcome that is well thought out and documented.
- Investing in communication. A plan that sits on a shelf or in a hard drive serves no purpose. A good strategic plan acts as a map to the future, giving employees and management the vision to make great decisions on their own without excessive oversight and micro-management.
- Investing in continual evaluation. Six months after the planning session concludes, conduct a brief two-hour re-evaluation of the plan. Ask your management team to consider how the plan fits and feels now that they have lived with it for a short time. The strategic plan should allow for some flexibility to adapt and change as the organization grows.
- Investing in brevity. This doesn't mean bullet lists. It means keeping the plan to no more than four pages. Consider writing it in the form of a story to increase retention among those who read it.
The process of planning the future and direction of the company should generate intense discussion (maybe even controversy) about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that face your organization and its people. The discussions should bring out everyone's point of view. This is no place for a wallflower!
What does it feel like at the end? In planning sessions I have facilitated, it is extremely common to hear participants say things like, "I never knew that", or "I didn't know you felt that way". At the end of the session, it is not uncommon to hear, "I was a skeptic going into this, but I'm a believer now. It was invaluable."
The process of planning is almost more important than having a plan. So before you start your budget cycle this fall, re-evaluate your strategic plan. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was famous for saying, "Plans are nothing. Planning is everything."
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