The strategic plan, military in origin, has been part of business since World War II.
Although strategic planning has led to great success for many businesses, some question its usefulness. The future is no longer reasonably predictable, and the pace of change continues to rise with new technology and constant communication, but that doesn’t mean strategic plans are dead. It just means they have become different.
Rigid three-, five- and 10-year strategic business plans have been replaced with shorter-term plans—some as short as 12 months. They strike the right balance of strategy and adaptability. Some focus on a direction with supporting short-term initiatives versus what results will be achieved at the end of a five-year timeframe. They allow for experimentation.
So, is your strategic communications plan really strategic? Does your company strategic business plan serve as an input to it? Does it have flexibility and opportunities for modification built into it? Given today’s pace of change, there is no time to waste.
Testing, listening and measurement must occur throughout plan implementation. You must get information directly from key stakeholders and make decisions based on a real-time understanding of what’s happening on the ground. In other words, you’re being proactive, making midcourse corrections, adapting to changes arising.
For those working for companies that don’t have a documented strategy, business plan or strategic direction, it’s time to do some investigative work. What major investments have been made to the organization’s operation in the last year? Who led or approved these investments?
Talk to the key players and find out the rationale behind the investments. Align your strategic communications plan to the objectives of these investments.
As with other business functions, communications must be linked to business objectives. This includes the annual master plan and project plans. With an understanding of business objectives, we can set communication objectives, determine what to measure, and demonstrate value added.
The rapid pace of change will continue and is not a reason to stop strategic planning. Today’s communications plans offer the right amount of strategy and adaptability to keep business moving forward, learning from results so we can do more of what’s working.