Use strategic planning to prepare for future

Friday, March 28, 2014

What is strategic planning and why do I need it? Strategic planning is an exercise by which you assess current trends and based upon those trends paint a picture of what you believe will be the work environment your company will likely face in the future. You must then take a proactive approach and determine how you will prepare for both positive and negative changes that will emerge.

Strategy is a Greek military term that means joining the general with his army to achieve goals. The leader must understand the environment, define goals, identify options, make and execute decisions, and evaluate the performance. In business, it is a well-defined plan of action intended to overcome obstacles and take advantage of opportunities to sustain and grow the business.

Strategic plans are a set of steps used as a vehicle to help you achieve goals. They are blueprints describing processes and actions. Strategy thinking is a learning experience that helps you better understand who you are, where you want to go, and how you will get there. It forces you to identify short and long-term priorities.

The planning process helps you to have a better awareness of the needs of your company and critical issues in the HME industry. It helps the company focus on objectives, effective staffing, and accountability of people. It also helps companies examine and measure core competencies, operational performance, customer-driven excellence and the competitive environment. 

Strategic thinking and planning will require the company to reconsider its mission, vision and current ways of doing business in view of a changing business and government climate. HME companies that are passive in thoughtful consideration of their capability, capacity and resources to satisfy consumer needs and plan for a new world of HME may be left behind.

The basic planning process will include environmental scanning, evaluation, forecasting, goal setting, execution and monitoring. Environmental scanning is usually accomplished by using a SWOT analysis. The acronym stands for strengths and weaknesses that are internal to the business operations, and opportunities and threats that are external to the company, and identifies critical factors in the business community.

The leadership of the organization must determine who will participate in the planning meeting(s). If the organization is too large to bring all employees together for a problem-solving session to gather information, blank SWOT analysis sheets with explanation of intent and how to use them can be distributed to as many employees as you choose and collected after they have been filled in

The intent of including all employees, which is optional, sends a message to the staff that their participation in the planning process is important to the owner. It will also enable owners to learn of observations from employees that management may not have knowledge. Once information from the SWOT is collected and compiled, it is management’s responsibility to evaluate the information to identify and prioritize those issues that must be addressed.

Next, forecasting is an attempt to make certain assumptions of the future business climate based upon management’s experience, knowledge and discernment. Forecasting for your business begins with a study of the HME industry. Gathering information will come from trade journals, conventions, customers, competition, and national and state associations.

Goal setting is the most difficult task. You need to develop goals that are realistic and achievable according to your capability and capacity. Base your long-term goals on short ones that are readily attainable. Goals are written in a broad way, while objectives are more specific. One goal may be to offer a new product line in 18 months. Objectives of this goal may be to evaluate manufacturers, do a cost analysis, determine education and training needed for staff, create new business processes to support the product, and produce new marketing materials.

After you have determined your objectives, specific tasks are assigned to staff and are given target dates for completion. Execution is the test of management. Translating a goal into reality is the focus of how goals are achieved. Therefore, it takes discipled leadership to follow detailed action steps to achieve the desired results. 

Measuring your progress along the way is necessary to determine effective execution. Performance indicators should be evaluated regularly so that if unforeseen obstacles occur, course correction can be made to lessen negative affect.

Tom Cesar is President of Tom Cesar Management Solutions, LLC. He is a presenter and facilitator for strategic planning and development of a balanced scorecard. He can be reached at