A Beginner’s Guide to Long Range Planning
In today’s business world, those who fail to plan for tomorrow today are doomed to future hardship and potential failure. Though market changes and other dynamics are in constant flux and are therefore difficult to mitigate, having a long-range plan is a key to creating stability, purpose, and direction in your business. By engaging in the long-range planning process, you not only define what your business is today, but what you hope it will be in the distant future.
Long-range planning is not as easy as it may seem, however. Accounting for variables, accurately forecasting future market conditions, and determining the need for future diversification can all require almost prophetic vision. However, planning long-range helps your business engage in self-scouting by assessing strengths and weaknesses and creatively proposing solutions that will propel your organization forward. It will also provide the concrete immediate benefit of charting a path to future success that can focus and drive the collective efforts of your team, resulting in greater productivity and vision. Keep reading to learn a few tips that you can use when developing a long-range plan to guide your business into a new era of success.
You can’t know where you want to go as a company until you know where you stand currently. All functions of a business are guided by its mission, so one of the first steps you should take in developing a long-range plan is to define the mission of the organization. This creates an identity that can guide you planning for years to come.
Vision is second only to mission in determining the thrust of your long-term strategy. After assessing where your business stands now, think about where you want it to be in five, 10, or 20 years. What successes would you like to celebrate at those waypoints, and what do they look like? How will your mission grow or change as your business confronts and overcomes obstacles and continues to grow? What kind of culture shift will be necessary for your business to conquer near-future obstacles and adapt to continued future success? What other lines of service or geographic regions will you want to enter eventually to open new markets? These are key considerations when defining your vision.
Another good exercise that dovetails with long-range planning is conducting a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. This will provide you with points of focus for your long-range plan by illustrating the things that provide current successes, the weaknesses that are holding your business back, the opportunities for future success that are in front of you, and the threats to consistent success that may emerge.
A SWOT analysis can show you where you need to improve in the present to realize future gains. It also defines areas of opportunity and provides a chance to talk about how to grasp them. Finally, it forces you to assess your weaknesses that can result in future threats to your business and consider ways of mitigating risks and diversifying to strengthen your business.
Long-range planning is focused on long-term success, but to be successful in the long-term a business must remain viable in the present. Therefore, don’t forget to stagger goals and create ample opportunities to gain successes and avoid threats throughout the duration of your plan term.
For example, it’s a good idea to set short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals for your business. This will help create a trajectory of consistent success that not only provides concrete stability but will also create a culture of success for your business in which you and your employees refuse to accept failure. Charting out goals throughout your plan duration also provides a road map for progress and gives you a way of being accountable for goal attainment throughout.
Don’t Forget Strategy
Thinking about future successes and defining goals is critical, but don’t forget to set strategy as well. Think of your long-term plan as a road map. A road map isn’t very helpful if it just plots potential destinations. Rather, you need to see the roads that connect those destinations to navigate the journey. Strategy provides those byways to success, so make sure that they are well-conceived, practical, and adaptable if the circumstances change. Detours happen, and you must know how to get around any metaphorical bridges that are out.
Success isn’t something that just happens by coincidence. It is the product of a sound strategy, critical thinking, and timely execution. A long-range plan can help your business harness the power of the present and plot a path to a more successful tomorrow. For more information on the benefits of long-range planning and how to realize them, contact TradeBeyond.