drawing board, chalk boardMost companies have little difficulty achieving tactical focus.
After all, customers demand it. We live in a real-time society where many of us have become quite skilled at fighting business fires as we strive for service excellence. On the other hand, this tactical focus, enhanced by the fact we are in the swamp fighting the alligators as a primary job responsibility, often negates our ability to generate strategic focus on the part of our management teams.
Leadership and new business models are key ingredients to success in the 21st century. The successful 21st century business model must be built around servant-style leadership with strategic focus and strategic thinking through harnessing the creativity and innovation of its employees. The vehicle to accomplish this is the strategic planning process.
Strategy serves as an organization’s compass and roadmap to future success. Strategic focus and strategic thinking must be clear and effectively communicated throughout the organization. It is not something you can leverage with technology and it isn’t something you will find in the latest business manual. It is embedded in the minds of your management team and most of your employees. Your employees are the ones on the frontlines and know what is really going on with your customers and your markets. It requires effective leadership to release the power of the employees, creating a strategic focus in building a strategic roadmap to the future.
What’s the plan?
Defining objectives and developing initiatives and action plans to meet those objectives is the basis of strategic planning. However, it all starts with strategic focus creating an “end game” and “vision for the future.”
Strategic planning is a management tool used to help an organization clarify its future direction, focus its energy and help organization members focus on the same goals. The planning process adjusts the organization’s direction in response to a changing environment. Strategic planning is a disciplined effort to support fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does and why it does it, with a focus on where it wants to go and how it is going to get there.
The scope of the strategy development process for any company is dependent upon individual business needs. The strategic planning process is a time- and resource-consuming endeavor involving many people in the organization.
Executive teams are often so immersed in the day-to-day activities of running the business that strategic focus with respect to long-term planning is often not a priority. However, effective leaders recognize the value of strategic focus and thinking backed up by a long-term strategic plan. Strategic planning can provide:
  • A structure for the decision-making process with curbs and milestones set to guide the management team;
  • A basis for initiating new products and processes in alignment with and in support of long-term objectives;
  • A vehicle for the development of employees supporting retention and bench strength; and
  • The creation of change with a vehicle to manage that change.
Go inside and outside
A strategic plan is not a business plan and it is not the same as your annual budget with departmental objectives. However, these vehicles become a part of the tactical support for meeting strategic objectives once the strategic plan has been approved and implemented. To be successful in this century requires a heightened sense of awareness about what is going on both inside and outside the business. That is why it is helpful to do an assessment on the business and initiate external surveys to gain input from both customers and vendors as part of the prelaunch process of strategic planning.
Even the most effective visionary leaders of today do not have a crystal ball that can predict the future. Consequently, an integral part of the strategic planning process is developing a key set of assumptions during the “end game/vision for the future” planning process that is based on both internal and external data. By understanding market dynamics, internal cultural shifts and identified critical constraints, you have a much greater chance of success.
“The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.” — Warren G. Bennis 
Developing a strategic focus is not easy. It can be a scarce commodity in many companies.
“Always remember your focus determines your reality.” — Jedi wisdom from Star Wars.
Focus is the key determining factor in whether or not you can create strategic initiatives and then execute those initiatives to achieve the goals you outline in your plan. Self-discipline, motivation, rewards and even willpower are not effective without focus.
Many managers live with a feeling that there is more to do in a day than they can possibly get done. Take a timeout and ask yourself is this feeling of overload strictly due to too much work or is it due to a lack of organization? More simply put, is it self-inflicted?
Let’s face it, a cosmic truth in today’s business environment is we all have trouble making choices thanks to too much crisis management, internal firefighting, panic responses, reactive instead of proactive responses and poor time-management skills. 
What’s in your tool box? Can you strategically focus or will you continue operating in a reactive tactical mode. Creating a strategic plan can give you and your team the self-discipline to move toward a more strategically led and analytically driven company.