Strategic Planning - Get it Done!

Turn your SME’s strategic plans into reality. Five principles every SME should follow to effectively execute their vision and strategy.

Chess board strategy with the horse knocking over the king
By Brian Howe

Many businesses have strategic plans, but how many are disciplined in following these and making them a reality? One of the biggest problems that SMEs face today is not a lack of planning, but rather a lack of execution of plans made.

We have found that most business owners and their teams don’t really understand what strategy is all about, and they certainly don’t recognize their contribution to the overall vision. Short-term goals tend to drive behavior, but this is not necessarily the behavior that will sustain growth and assist the business in tough times.

Most companies claim to have a Vision, Mission and a set of common Values that should guide them going forward. Many of these are even framed and displayed in the reception area of their businesses, but are they displayed in the behaviours that their staff exhibit? These guiding principles should live within everyone who is part of the organization – we should be the frames!

I remember going into the office of the CEO of a very solid, forward thinking small business. We were discussing strategy and he mentioned that the management team had recently been away on a strategic planning session. He said that the process was excellent, and that the strategies created were really great. He then began to laugh, saying that the document was locked in one of the cupboards in his office and he didn’t know where the key was hidden….

The key to strategic success lies in the ability to implement the following 5 principles.
Simplicity – The strategic document should be focused, clear and easily understood by all.
Ownership – The leadership team should be fully involved in the creation of the plan, not just the business owner.
Communication – Once the plan has been completed the rest of the staff should be engaged in a process to fully understand the plan.
Execution – Break the strategic plan down into manageable action plans. Then have the discipline to ensure the plan is monitored and that the actions and tactics are achieved.
Evaluation – Time needs to be set aside to evaluate the success, address any changes and set new strategies if required.
While Execution and follow-through is a critical element of successful plans, it is also the most threatened, as it requires us to operate in a quadrant we spend very little time in.

This is best explained by using the Eisenhower Grid below. Urgency drives our daily activities and therefore we spend most of our time in quadrant 1 and 3.

Strategy development and strategy follow through all lies in Quadrant 2 (Important and Not Urgent). The more time we spend here, the more we will influence the time spent in Quadrant 3. Ideally we need to spend our time operating as much as possible above the line in Q1 & Q2.


As we start to look forward into 2014 and beyond, ensure that you spend enough time in Q2 (Important & Not Urgent) with your team to develop and then execute great strategies to ensure the success of your organisation.

I will leave you with this thought – “The ability to execute strategy is more important than the strategy itself.” Norton & Kaplan.

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About the Author

Brian Howe works for ECAPS CONSULTING and helps to facilitate the ec@ps process. He is passionate about keeping the strategic planning process simple whilst being able to help measure individuals performance against that simple strategy. The ecaps process was developed because of the need to simplify strategy and develop a process for easy implementation.

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  • Can only agree that most SME’s that fail do so because of lack of implementation and in monitoring the success of their strategic plan

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