Strategy Framework: 7 Steps To Success Planning For The 21st Century

The traditional model for strategic planning had the board of directors playing a more passive role
in the review and approval of the Strategic Plan. The experience of strategic crises in many
companies, has driven a growing consensus that board must be more actively engaged, and on a
more frequent basis. The below Framework moves to address these needs and to lay out a structure
that can encourage, even require, more board engagement.
The board gets an insight into the global and national economic environment. This is put into the
context of both the GEO political and national political environment. It also gets an external futurist
perspective on the emerging cultural and technological trends that are changing the environment in
which the company will operate. This is critical to set the stage for understanding what forces are
causing the change in the industry. The theme here must incorporate an understanding of what
forces for disruptive change are in play. It will focus on general trends, but will ultimately reveal the
changes that will reshape the industries in which the company operates, and the customer market
behaviors influencing it sales.
This will be a deep-dive on all of the existing competitors, their strategies, their product lines, their
customer segments and their financial and non financial performance metrics. These perspectives
will focus on attempting to understand the growth patterns in top line and bottom line results. The
key to this analysis will be to find the unique and potential paradigm shifts occurring at the
competition. Although the analysis will incorporate internal management assessments of the
competitors, it will heavily rely on external assessments by business analysts, consultants to the
industry and, where possible, financial analysis of all public companies by both sell and buy side
This will be a deep dive on assessing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, and
will require candid and open disclosure of these factors by the management team. It should be an
active dialogue that takes place within the organization and ultimately with the board. Once again,
outside perspectives on what the company issues are, will be critical input into the process. It will
also be critical to get evidence that this evaluation is the result of perspectives from every level of
the organization, where frequently top management and the lowest level personnel have a
divergence of insights.
This is the most difficult Step, as it requires management and the board to focus on a detailed
definition of the “various alternative paths” to follow. This analysis must be in depth as it requires
discussions of the pros and cons of the various options. In this analysis and discussion with the
board the management is likely to have already identified a preferred strategic path, hence, it is a
critical role of the board to challenge the thinking with careful inquiry and skeptical insights. It will
be critical that management bring as much date to the table as possible, but it will also require that
the board review in depth the data to assure that the inquiry challenges both assumptions and
conclusions. It is in this stage where also a substantive discussion on the costs of the strategy are
discussed. No strategy comes with out financial and human capital investments, and these
investments must be tested against the ROI they generate and the risks associated with each.
This will be a follow up discussion of both, what specific strategic path has been chosen, and the
rationale for that choice. It must be a presentation that relies on data and logical analysis. The
management team is likely to have a bias at the “gut level,” and the board must be willing to
challenge the inevitable “experiential biases” of the management team. Management and the board
alike, must be able to think outside their respective comfort zone, as this is the stage where the
critical decisions are made. This is essentially the Step where the consensus for the organization is
reached, and the future direction is crystalized. Once again, a critical part of this analysis is to
discuss and achieve comfort with the rejected options, and why they were not selected. This is not
simply an agreement on the choice, it is an agreement on the rejection of the alternative strategies.
As at every stage, a critical part of this discussion must be the assessment of the risk profile of the
strategic choices.
Here is where the goals are finalized, and the strategic directions is not put into a robust plan where
the strategy is now linked to action plans, timelines and metrics used to assess success or failure.
This is now the stage where the “devil is in the details.” Hopefully the strategic analysis has been
thorough enough that the detailed plans, and the financial forecasts, are not a surprise, but it is at
this stage where the management is expected to lay out the long term plan, while incorporating the
specifics for the next annual plan as a first step on the journey to implementing the strategic
This is the last phase of the process, and it is not really a step, it is an ongoing process to monitor
performance of the company on the achievement of the Strategic Plan. There must be a review of
not just the annual plan metrics at each board meeting, but there must be a continuous update on
the performance against the strategic benchmarks set in the Plan. It is likely that there are critical
initiatives that will drive the success of the strategy, and the progress on these must be discussed in
detail at every board meeting. This step is not only a process, but it requires that the board and
management always be open to changes in the environment, and the organizational performance,
to be certain that the strategic direction is still consistent with the challenges of competing in the
market place. In short, the Plan must always be reviewed, not only with respect to achievement of
the critical path events; but, it must be evaluated as to its continuing efficacy as a direction for the