205642cIn the DC Metro area, we are working in an era and region with a highly competitive business market, moving targets and constant evolution.  Amidst this ever-changing environment, one quality of the area’s highest performing companies remains constant – they have given themselves a roadmap with a formalized strategic plan and strive to implement it well.  Strategic planning is more than relevant for those focused on corporate growth, it is essential to sustainable success.

A strategic plan can create impeccable decision makers. That’s because a successful plan aligns everybody. A plan creates a nexus connecting everyone’s work by common understandings. Everybody has all the right information to make all the best decisions that move the enterprise forward—one person, one decision at a time.

A strategic plan isn’t so much a piece of paper as a shift in mindset. It moves responsibility for a company out of the hands of a few executives and into the hands—and heads—of everybody working the plan. For success, a strategic plan is a daily awareness.

It’s simple. A strategic plan is what makes sure that the vessel leaves the hands of the manufacturer and is handed over to a crew for passage to bolder destinations. Each person relies on his or her own power for many key decisions and knows when to turn to leadership for guidance on larger issues.

A strategic plan is the best way—whether sailing is smooth or rough—for leaders to be involved in every decision without being in the way. The plan is a robust control that keeps leaders from exerting a dampening influence on their teams. A strategic plan unleashes the full power of an organization’s talent. Once a strategy is planned and in place, the remaining challenge is stepping back, listening, and being humbled by everybody’s brilliance.

How is this done? The well-crafted strategic plan isn’t complicated, although its development can take some time. The goal is clarity, and the process is energizing. What you have, in the end, is a shared understanding that becomes a familiar reference point. It’s used as a sure-fire way for each person to move forward independently without creating chaos or downward drag. This plan becomes the filter for sifting out meaning from all the noise among the rush of daily priorities.

Rapid response is possible no matter how large or far-flung your enterprise, and strategic planning is the key to rapid response, empowering everybody working ably within their spheres to be poised to make decisions quickly and in synch with everybody else.

We know that threats abound for our military—and in global commerce. Fast-changing opportunities to advance and succeed require rapid response rates possible only when decisions are made with alignment of purpose and work is performed across divisions. Despite what anyone may claim, any large organization can turn on a dime—if all its pieces are aligned and working in unison when the decision point arrives. I know: I have seen this happen again and again, as organizations that are stalled or sluggish energize their full forces by aligning processes and people with a crystal-clear plan.

Great strategic planning isn’t just a plan. As a plan, it doesn’t overshadow the living, daily pulse of business. Strategic planning, from start to implementation, is a continuing conversation about what people in the organization want to create, the culture they envision, and the business results they need. It forges a clear decision path that brings unity to cross purposes and confidence to hesitation. As a result, talent is focused on achieving shared success and resources are used for incremental growth—not status quo.