Strategic Planning Kit For Dummies®, 2nd Edition

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Table of Contents

Strategic Planning Kit For Dummies®, 2nd Edition



About the Author

Erica Olsen holds a BA in Communications and an MBA in International Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management. She’s frequently tapped to lecture at the University of Nevada in Reno and the University of Phoenix in Reno on management and planning topics. She hosts workshops and has spoken at conferences nationwide.

As one of the developers of MyStrategicPlan, Erica has stripped strategic planning of its fate as a static document. With her online strategic planning system, any organization, regardless of size and budget, can build a plan in a matter of weeks (or even days). After completing the plan, the online system actually helps organizations execute the plan instead of just shoving it on a shelf. Her team developed MyStrategicPlan because they believe in inspiring big ideas and creating the laser-like focus to achieve them.

MyStrategicPlan is just one of several services offered by Erica’s company, M3 Planning. M3 also does on-site strategic planning facilitation and retreats, as well as market research consulting. Over the last several years, M3 has developed and reviewed thousands of strategic plans for organizations across the country.

In addition to authoring Strategic Planning Kit For Dummies, 2nd Edition, Erica has coauthored Strategic Planning Made Easy: A Practical Guide to Growth and Profitability (M3 Planning, Inc.) and contributes regular columns to local, regional, and national business publications.

When Erica isn’t lecturing, writing, or planning, she’s alternately kayaking, backcountry skiing, rock climbing, biking, running, or bagging peaks around the Western Hemisphere with her husband, Gregor.

Erica always enjoys hearing from her readers. If you have questions about your strategic planning or if you have a success story to share, please contact her through any of the following methods:


Blog: Strategically Speaking,


To all the business owners, executive directors, and managers in this world who have a big vision: May you successfully reach that big, hairy, audacious goal.

Author’s Acknowledgments

My sincere thanks and appreciation goes out to everyone who had a hand in putting this book together. The journey was an amazingly wonderful and enlightening experience, and I’m grateful for the remarkable opportunity to author this book. I must recognize a few specific people.

To my book brain trust, who provided ideas, recommendations, and suggestions at every turn — thank you for making this book as good as it could be. I want to specifically thank Alissa Schwipps, Michael Lewis, and technical editor Clint Burdett, for all your help. I would also like to thank the graphics and layout teams at John Wiley & Sons, Inc., who made this book come to life and the marketing teams who brought this book to business owners and managers everywhere. And a special thanks to Howard Putnam, author of The Winds of Turbulence (Howard D. Putnam Enterprises), for his kind words.

To our strategic planning clients who’ve all contributed to this book through their examples, questions, suggestions, and experiences — thank you for the opportunity to work with your organizations. Working with you is a pleasure and gift to everyone at my company.

Thank you to my great friends for sticking by my side even when I was buried in my writing. You’re a continual source of encouragement. Special thanks go out to my friends and colleagues who made this edition fabulous, specifically Milan Sperka and Connie Armstrong, and to the rest of my team, Russell Persson, Vanessa Lindeberg, Cammy LoRe, Kim Perkins, Kristin Larsen, Shannon Forster, and Elsa Ozuna-Richards.

To my family, who’s the best family in the world, thank you for supporting me in everything I do. My brothers Ryan and Brett, you provided needed distractions in between my deadlines and kept me focused on what mattered. Grandma and Grandpa Olsen (aka G & G), you instilled the entrepreneurial spirit in our family; to you I’m eternally grateful. Aunt Marlene, you’re an amazing mentor; thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom with me. Mom, you’re a one-of-a-kind business partner and mentor; thank you for taking care of the business and our clients when I was facing looming deadlines. Dad, you added needed clarifications, answers, and content ideas whenever I needed them; thank you for dropping everything to help me. You’re as much the author of this book as I am. You’re the best.

Most importantly, I want to thank my husband, Gregor. Your unfailing support for everything I do doesn’t go unnoticed. I couldn’t accomplish any of what I do without you.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments at . For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Vertical Websites

Senior Project Editors: Alissa Schwipps, Christina Guthrie

(Previous Edition: Tim Gallan)

Acquisitions Editor: Michael Lewis

Copy Editor: Jennette ElNaggar

Assistant Editor: David Lutton

Editorial Program Coordinator: Joe Niesen

Technical Editor: Clint Burdett, CMC

Vertical Websites: Jenny Swisher, Marilyn Hummel

Editorial Manager: Christine Meloy Beck

Editorial Assistants: Rachelle S. Amick, Alexa Koschier

Cover Photos: © / Mark Stay

Cartoons: Rich Tennant ()

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Sheree Montgomery

Layout and Graphics: Laura Westhuis

Proofreader: Toni Settle

Indexer: Cheryl Duksta

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Kathleen Nebenhaus, Vice President and Executive Publisher

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher

Composition Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


You have two choices when it comes to running your organization: (1) Be intentional about the path your organization follows or (2) turn on autopilot. Turning on autopilot is kind of like hopping into your Hummer, turning on the satellite navigation system, and following the directions from your home to Las Vegas. Computers aren’t the best at making decisions, so you may get to Las Vegas eventually, but are you going to Las Vegas, New Mexico, or Las Vegas, Nevada? If you plot your course before you set off, you’re more likely to get to the correct destination.

If you’re running your organization without a plan, you’re just using the navigation system and not paying attention to how you’re getting there. An astonishing 90 percent of businesses are running without a plan. That 90 percent is hoping that the navigation system doesn’t fail and that it correctly assumes the end destination. But because you’re reading this book, you’re ready to run the show, and you’re close to joining the elite 10 percent that know a strategic plan is important.

About This Book

This book is about getting from Point A to Point B more effectively and efficiently and having more fun along the way. Part of that journey is the strategy and part of it is the planning, development, and execution.

Strategic planning isn’t about taking on additional work; it’s about taking all those numerous daily decisions and making them part of an integrated process. Whether you want to be more effective and efficient or you want to make more money, have a bigger community impact, or move your company from good to great, this book is for you! No more thinking that strategic planning is daunting. This book, and the accompanying CD, makes the process easy, straightforward, rewarding, and fun.

Strategic Planning Kit For Dummies, 2nd Edition, brings everything business owners, executive directors, or managers need to take their organizations to the next phase of business growth. The book presents a practical set of strategic planning tools and guides you through an integrated strategic planning process that I break down into six phases.

In this book, you discover how strategic planning is the key element to your growth through a no-nonsense approach. Each part contains relevant content, real-world examples, and useful worksheets. On the CD, you’ll find blank, printable versions of several of these worksheets and templates that help you identify your SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats), your competitive advantage, and your road map for success. I also provide some helpful links to short videos on my website that guide you through the steps of the planning phases.

Strategic planning has been overcomplicated by jargon, competing semantics, and consultants of the world (me included!). In reality, strategic planning is a business concept that’s useful to all businesses and organizations, no matter their size or resources. Use this book as your reference — whether you’re part of a large organization or a small one — to create a strategic plan that gets you to your destination.

Conventions Used in This Book

The following conventions are used throughout the text to make concepts consistent and easy to understand:

check.png All web addresses and e-mail addresses appear in monofont. Some web addresses may break across two lines of text. If that happens, know that I haven’t put in any extra characters (such as hyphens) to indicate the break. So when typing these addresses into your web browsers, type exactly what you see in this book, pretending as though the line break doesn’t exist.

check.png New terms appear in italics and are closely followed by a definition.

check.png Bold is used to highlight the action parts of numbered steps and key words or phrases in bulleted lists.

What You’re Not to Read

Although I hope you read every word I’ve written, I understand that your life is busy and that you want to read only the need-to-know info. You can thus safely skip the sidebars — those shaded gray boxes that contain text. Sidebars provide supporting or entertaining info that isn’t critical to your understanding of the topic. I use them to go off on tangents or present extended examples, so you can skip them if you want.

Foolish Assumptions

As I wrote this book, I made some assumptions about you, my reader:

check.png You’re a decision maker. You hold the position of business owner, manager, executive director, department head, or team/group leader.

check.png You can influence change in your organization. Whether you have the final say, you have a strong enough position to influence the course of your business.

check.png You want to see your organization grow and be sustainable! Growth is different for every organization. But the underlying premise is you want your organization to do more and be around longer.

check.png You can see the edges of your strategy, but you need to fill in the detail. Most organizations know what general direction they’re headed in, but they need to turn the generalities into specifics.

check.png You have a plan, but it’s sitting on the shelf gathering dust. Or you have a plan, but it’s halfway completed.

check.png You want to get everyone on the same page. I hear this phrase with almost every client I work with, so I assume it applies to you, too. The need to get your whole company focused and pulling in the same direction is a great motivator to do strategic planning.

Although all these assumptions may not apply to you, am I at least close? I wish I could predict the future of your business, but alas, I haven’t been granted that power. A strategic plan helps to take out the uncertainty and allows you to shape the future you want. And I’m here to help you with your steps along the way.

How This Book Is Organized

Strategic Planning Kit For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is divided into six parts. A quick review of the Table of Contents and the following descriptions of the parts give you a solid overview of the entire book.

Part I: Kicking Off Your Strategic Planning Process

The chapters in this part are packed full of who, what, how, and why you should care. You look at a number of concepts in this part, including the strategic planning process, who should be involved, how long it takes, the right time for lanning, the differences between business plans and stratgic plans, and much more.

If you’re looking to convince your boss or team members about the importance of strategic planning, look no further than Chapter 2.

Part II: Determining Your Core DNA and Envisioned Future

Hold on a second. Don’t move past this part too quickly; I know you want to. Whether your organization has been around for 2 years or 200 years, you have important knowledge to build your strategic plan on. I like to call that knowledge tribal knowledge. Chapter 4 asks you to identify your strategic issues. Chapter 5 digs in to the hard subject of what you do best and helps you identify, develop, and sustain your organization’s competitive advantage. Chapter 6 includes a discussion about mission, vision, and values. Additionally, Part II provides you with advice on making sure that the foundation of your business is solid.

Part III: Sizing Up Your Current Situation

Part III focuses on collecting information that’s critical for your strategic decision making. Organizations can’t plan without gathering the right data, so Chapter 7 looks at assessing your business and its capabilities; Chapter 8 focuses on seeing your business through your customers’ eyes; Chapter 9 takes a look at finding new customers; and Chapter 10 assesses your opportunities and threats. I provide a set of tools for synthesizing the data so you have the right information as you head into strategic decision making in the next part.

Part IV: Mapping Your Organization’s Path to the Future

The main reason you need to do strategic planning is to look into and plan for the future. In this part, you determine how to grow and be sustainable by looking at the different types of value-creating strategies, as well as the more specific strategies surrounding growth, integration, and diversification. Most importantly, you identify and evaluate opportunities and select a strategy to move in that direction. Then I take this section a step further and show you how to operationalize your plan.

Part V: Living and Breathing Your Plan

No matter how good the plan, if it sits on the shelf, it’s going to be useless. In this part, I focus on the execution of your plan and best practices on how to move from a plan to execution. Not all organizations are created equal — quite the opposite, actually. To address specific organizational concerns, you find in this section tips for government and nonprofit strategies as well as entrepreneurial companies. Lastly, seeing the future more clearly is how to constantly adapt and tweak your plan. Scenario planning in Chapter 17 helps you keep the future in focus.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Need some quick tips, a shot in the arm, or just a good laugh? The Part of Tens is a collection of hints, reminders, observations, and warnings about what to do and not to do. These chapters focus on giving you a quick set of guidelines for three key areas: facilitating strategy meetings, getting your plan done, and executing the strategy.

Additionally, I provide an appendix that guides you through the software requirements for installing and using the CD. I also give you an overview of all the worksheets and templates on the CD, which is designed to help you through each and every step of your strategic planning.

Icons Used in This Book

Throughout the book, the following icons appear in the left margins to alert you to special information.

remember.eps This symbol marks an important truth that’s worth repeating. Taking note of these ideas can help you make progress with your strategic plan.

tip.eps The information next to the Tip icon always includes a helpful hint to keep your strategic plan moving forward as smoothly as possible.

warning_bomb.eps Any information next to this icon is something you want to be wary about. Watch your step when you see a Warning icon. The info can include mistakes others made that you can learn from or moments where you have to weigh the cost of doing one thing over another.

intheplan.eps This symbol indicates a concept or work area where the outcome goes into your strategic plan.

nextlevel.eps Are you an experienced strategic planner? If so, these icons are for you. Take your planning to the next level by employing the ideas highlighted with this icon.

onthecd.eps To assist you, I’ve included editable versions of the handy worksheets and templates on a CD so you can easily start your planning process.

Where to Go from Here

This book is as much about strategy development and execution as it is about the plan itself. If you want to spend time on strategy development, go to Parts II, III, and IV. On the other hand, if you just want to put your plan together, go to Parts I and V.

Another approach to tackling this book is to consider your own thinking and education style. What gets you excited? How do you like to think? Here’s a detailed approach for navigating through this book, based on your skills and personality:

check.png Big-picture thinkers: You may love Chapters 5, 6, 11, and 17 because they’re future-oriented and focus on what’s possible.

check.png Analytical minds: Chapters 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 17 are for those of you who always look at the what ifs. These chapters look at how to use data from your internal and external environments to develop a list of possible strategies.

check.png Detail-oriented folks: If you’re thinking, “How are we going to do this?” then head to Chapters 12, 13, and 14 to put the pieces together.

check.png Social butterflies, team builders, and crowd pleasers: Check out Chapters 2, 3, 19, and 20 for ideas to build consensus and get everyone’s input.

However you approach your plan, I recommend you start a strategy notebook to capture your thoughts as you move through your planning process. I guarantee you’ll stumble across a section of text or an idea that you don’t want to lose, so if you jot it down in your notebook, you won’t have to go back and find it. In several places, I refer to the notebook as a place to work through some actions and exercises.

Regardless of how you find your way around Strategic Planning Kit For Dummies, 2nd Edition, I’m sure that you can develop a strategic plan that fits your team’s approach and organization’s style. I invite you to share your stories, experiences, vision, and successes with me and other readers on my blog at . I look forward to hearing from you. Happy strategizing!

Part I

Kicking Off Your Strategic Planning Process


In this part . . .

Having a strategic plan is the best way to bring focus and direction to your organization. The chapters in this part make you a strategic planning convert. In this part, you discover what strategic planning is and why it’s important. You also dive into the steps of the strategic planning process, including who should be involved along the way and how you create a business process instead of just an event.