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THE HIGH IMPACT STRATEGIC PLAN: NOT JUST FOR BIG BUSINESS!

By John Skelton, MA, CPIM, Faculty Head, Supply Chain & Logistics, October 31, 2014

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else.” – Yogi Berra

Where are the best jobs? What role best suits my skills? What career will make me deliriously happy?

It is common for students engaged in the study of supply chain and logistics to wonder about what sort of job or career path might provide the best fit for them. Given the broad spectrum of activities that are integral to the supply chain, a certain level of nervousness is understandable.

I often advise my students to take some time to develop a personal strategic plan. We often think – erroneously – that strategic plans are only useful for Big Business. Strategic Planning has a mystique about it. The prospect of developing one frightens the daylights out of most students. But it is very important that every individual establish a strong sense of direction in his or her life, and career.

I recall an interesting exchange that occurred between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865):
"Would you tell me which way I ought to go from here?" asked Alice.
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get," said the Cat.
"I really don’t care where" replied Alice.
"Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go," said the Cat.

One thing is certain: those students who effectively utilize a personal strategic plan enjoy a much greater chance of long-term career success, and self-actualization, than those who “play it by ear.”

Quite simply, strategy is what a person does to fulfil his or her vision.

A high-impact strategic plan can be presented effectively on one page. Its elements can be expressed in a few well-chosen words, clauses or sentences. A well-crafted plan is the manifestation of elegant simplicity. It is powerful enough to guide a person’s daily, weekly, and monthly activities as he or she marches purposefully towards achieving a life ambition.

Within the strategic plan, a person sets the dominant logic and the moral compass of his or her career path. It is an opportunity to unambiguously document one’s vision, mission, ethical standards, and objectives. It forces introspection and situational analysis. And, primarily through articulation of core values, it provides a directional beacon to be used, especially in hard times.

Fundamentally, a strategic plan consists of five elements:

The Vision
In “Building the Bridge from Vision to Results: Ten Pillars of Successful Strategic Planning,” Robert Silverman said, “A vision without execution is a daydream…but execution without vision is a nightmare.”
The Vision is an inspirational call to action. It is a desired future state of being. In a few short words, a person uses the Vision to provide direction. It should engage one’s emotions. It should be designed to last for many years. For example, Google’s vision statement is world-class: “To develop a perfect search engine.” I think that is very cool.

Core Values
Choose five or six words or short phrases that define the principles that are important to you. Examples of such words might include “integrity”, or “honesty”. Core values are a person’s moral compass. They will state how you will treat others as well as how you treat yourself. Would you want to work for a company that violated your core values?

The Mission
The Mission defines the arena in which we want to play. It is what we do, who we are, and how we see ourselves contributing to society. It keeps us focused. Comprised of three or four short sentences, it is more detailed than the Vision, and is often written in the present tense.

SWOT Analysis:
This acronym stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It is a fact-based analysis that a student must undertake. It requires an honest self-evaluation, and frequently trusted friends and family members contribute. Documenting strengths and weaknesses tends to involve serious introspection, while opportunity and threat analyses tend to require external environmental scanning.

The SWOT establishes a person’s current position relative to his or her Vision. It helps the student to establish meaningful objectives. It is therefore frequently performed early in the planning process.

Strategic Objectives:
Objectives and goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-framed). Three to five objectives are best (more goals than five tends to confuse the plan), and they should be attainable within one to three years. An example of a good strategic objective is: “Attain an APICS CPIM professional certification within 2 years.” Objectives should always move a person in the direction of achieving the Vision.

The strategic plan is a living document. Goals and objectives must be kept in alignment with the Vision and Mission. The plan should be reviewed at least annually, if not semi-annually, noting victories won, and failures suffered. The SWOT should be reviewed, and objectives appropriately modified. A comprehensive renewal of the strategic plan should be undertaken every three years.

In future posts, I will dive more deeply into each of these elements, beginning with the SWOT. Until then, your homework assignment is to develop your Vision! Now get to work!

John Skelton, MA, CPIM, was appointed Faculty Head, Supply Chain & Logistics, at triOS College in September 2014. Scarborough Campus’ first SC&L Instructor, John brings over 30 years of experience across a broad range of disciplines to the College. He is passionate about SC&L, and sees the field as being full of tremendous opportunity for graduating students. Logistics has been called “the driving force behind all great human achievement” and it will continue to be so throughout the 21st century. It offers a wonderful path for individuals and businesses to make a lasting and profoundly positive impact not just upon commercial profitability, but also through development of sustainable world economies and healthy ecologies.