A strategic planning consultant helps business owners to identify the best longer-term strategic growth opportunities and create a detailed action plan for implementing the strategy.
Strategy planning meetings run by a company executive are usually not very successful. The status quo does not get challenged, and groupthink is common. Sensitive issues are avoided, past failures get swept under the carpet, and organizational weaknesses do not get addressed.
As a result, in that environment, it’s difficult to come up with a breakthrough business strategy.
What A Strategy Consultant Does
A strategy consultant brings experience and a proven method to the planning process. With an objective “outside-in” view, the consultant has a fresh perspective, not influenced by corporate culture or groupthink.
Here’s an overview of what a strategic planning consultant can do to make a company’s strategic planning successful:
Providing Strategic Planning Methods and Tools
It is common for firms new to strategic planning, or that haven’t reviewed their business strategy in a while, to be unsure how to approach the process.
A strategic planning consultant brings methods and planning tools that streamline the planning process. The planning methodology also provides a structure for gathering market intelligence, conducting strategic discussions, evaluating options, and sound decision making.
The methods and tools make the planning process more rigorous and productive. The outcome will be an action plan that is well-thought-out and more robust than any off the cuff “strategy ideas” that might come out of a less structured approach.
Facilitating the Process
In the role of facilitator, the consultant makes sure that planning sessions stay on track by:
- Coaching, advising, and guiding management through all stages of the strategic planning process.
- Keeping everyone on the planning team focused and actively involved.
- Making sure no one dominates the discussions.
- Maintaining the meeting agenda and managing the project calendar.
- Keeping track of all discussions, brainstorming sessions, and decisions.
Assessing the Firm
To learn about the state of the business and its competitive position, strategy consultants need to conduct an objective, thorough assessment of the firm. Good or bad, they should always call it as they see it.
A comprehensive assessment of the business identifies strengths and weaknesses and can generate ideas about new opportunities.
Of course, every company has certain strengths. An experienced strategy consultant recognizes this and focuses on preserving and leveraging these strengths. Core strengths are the key to the firm’s competitive advantage – the basis of business strategy.
At the same time, the consultant must be aware of any organizational weaknesses. Critical weaknesses that are an obstacle to growth must get corrected. But, not all weaknesses need fixing. The business strategy needs to focus on the company’s core strengths.
Asking Probing Questions
Asking challenging questions is critical to get to the root causes of the issues the company is facing and to understand the true state of the business.
Although it’s important to be sensitive to corporate culture and having a professional “bedside manner”, a good strategy consultant should not avoid bringing up sensitive topics.
Strategic planning involves making changes. To have an impact on the direction of the company it’s essential to question the status quo. If difficult topics are avoided, developing a business strategy becomes a futile exercise.
After all, the strategy consultant was brought in to help develop solutions, not to leave things the way they are.
Conducting Research and Analysis
Developing a sound business strategy needs to be data-driven and based on facts. The decisions the organization needs to make are too important for guesswork, pie-in-the-sky thinking, or wishful thinking.
A consultant brings methods and tools to collect market intelligence, do research and conduct analysis on markets, competitors, and industry trends – insight critical to finding and evaluating the best opportunities for growth.
In addition, the consultant can also help with creating forecasts and financial models.
Providing Ideas and Recommendations
As the facilitator and active participant in the strategic planning process, the strategy consultant can bring up innovative ideas and make suggestions. The consultant can challenge management to think outside the box and explore different options.
Also, a strategy consultant can provide suggestions and recommendations based on the experience gained from other business strategy projects, often across a range of markets and industries.
Being Actively Involved
To be able to guide and advise management, the consultant needs to be actively involved and become part of the planning team.
The strategic planning process can only be successful is there’s a high level of participation of the firm’s owners and managers. For the strategic action plan to have a chance of being implemented successfully there needs to be management buy-in. Without management’s active involvement and “sweat equity” creating a viable, robust strategic plan is almost impossible. By being actively involved the strategic planning consultant makes sure that management remains engaged in the process.
Participating in the Strategic Plan Development
The tangible deliverable of the business strategy development process is not a document that sits on the bookshelf collecting dust until next year’s planning session. On the contrary, it’s a detailed strategic action plan that spells out the “what, why, and how” the firm is going to achieve its growth goals.
The consultant works together with the planning team on creating this action plan to make sure that the goals, strategies, and tasks are clearly defined and documented.
Supporting the Implementation
It’s only the skillful implementation of the strategic plan that makes the strategy come to life. Implementation is the rubber hits the road. Without acting on the strategic decisions, the firm is no better off than it was before and the entire strategic planning effort was futile.
A strategy consultant can support management with the implementation to make sure everything stays on track. This also helps the consultant to see if the business strategy is working and whether any course corrections are needed.
Hopefully, this post shed some light on how a strategic planning consultant guides the strategic planning process and advises management on developing and implementing a competitive strategy to achieve the business goals.
I’m looking forward to your comments.