4 Strategic Planning Steps For Better Overall Decision Making

By John Dillard

Organizational Strategic PlanningCrafting a strategic plan doesn’t have to be a painful, expensive process for your business or government agency. Rather, think of it as a decision-making process that keeps you from making the same mistakes year after year.

Strategic planning is the high-level process of listing your priorities and aligning them with your long-term vision for your organization. A strategic plan becomes the “North Star” for your other decision-making tools, including project evaluation and budget analysis. Thus, the more robust your strategic planning, the better your decision analysis and execution.

So, whether you’re a strategic planning veteran or you’re crafting your very first strategic plan, act on these four steps in order to maximize the results for your decision analysis tools:

1. Harness Different Decision-Making Frameworks

Your strategic planning process – and decision analysis – is more effective when it provides the decision-making frameworks for day-to-day execution.

Just like a GPS might give you different route options for the same destination based on time, distance or fuel efficiency, your strategic plan defines the high-level destination, but your decision-making tools help you decide how to get there based on your decision-making framework.

Some common decision-making frameworks include:

  • Brainstorming (even when solutions seem “obvious”)
  • Analysis of alternatives
  • Ranking
  • Weighting

2. Rank Multiple Priorities At Once

One common temptation in a strategic plan is to simplify your priorities too much. When it comes to prioritization of goals for your business or agency, it’s not just an either/or decision-making process, but it’s also a matter of ranking, apportioning and meeting multiple goals all at once.

Yet, achieving this multi-level prioritization is too complicated for the human mind to handle on its own. Without decision-making frameworks, hardwired shortcomings hold back your decision analysis, such as:

  • Being shortsighted
  • Continuing a project merely because you started it
  • Being afraid of the unknown
  • Resting on your laurels
  • Intuiting that the future follows a straight line from past patterns
  • Being distracted by new (but possibly irrelevant) technology

The only way to prevent these shortcomings from tainting your decision-making process is to enter your strategic planning and budgeting session with an open mind, clear communications, a collaborative outlook and robust decision-making tools.

3. Quantify Your Decision-Making Approach

“Gut-level” decision making is a practice of the past. In the modern day, you now have all the organizational data you would ever need to inform and guide your decision-making process, and intuition alone is more than likely to lead you in the wrong direction.

Instead, start your strategic planning initiatives with a quantified approach that’s easier to translate into data-driven decision-making tools, such as:

4. Prune Projects That Aren’t Productive

Just because you’ve started a project, program or initiative doesn’t mean that it’s worth continuing or finishing, and a strategic planning approach helps you prune out unnecessary or wasteful projects that consume too much of your time or budget.

Every year, review and assess your priorities and projects in the same manner as when you started them. Review budgets, costs, schedules and plans as carefully as you did before you initiated the program.

In your assessment, measure whether a current project or initiative lines up with the priorities and decision-making framework as laid out by your 1-year and 5-year strategic plans. If a project no longer measures up or no longer matches your priorities, it’s time to prune it from your budget.

Following these strategic planning and decision-making steps keeps your agency or business from straying from its vision or strategic goals. And with the right focus on your goals, there’s no limit to what your organization is able to achieve.

Need the tools to make better decisions for your business or agency? Start with your data and decision analysis tools. Click below to download a free tip sheet from Big Sky Associates and harness the power of data-driven decision-making tools for your organization today.

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