A strategic planning consultant helps business owners identify the best longer-term growth opportunities and create a detailed plan for implementing the strategy.
Often, smaller firms lack the experience to effectively conduct strategic planning inhouse.
Planning sessions led by an executive usually fail to produce breakthrough results. Old topics get rehashed, the status quo does not get challenged, and sensitive questions are avoided.
The result: little to no changes to the existing direction of the business. You’re likely to end up with basically the same ‘strategy’ as before. Or, no strategy at all.
Why You Should Work With A Consultant
Working with a strategy consultant ensures a better outcome: a well-crafted and competitive strategic plan.
Here are some key areas where a consultant can make strategic planning more effective.
Facilitating the planning sessions
As the facilitator, the consultant keeps the strategic planning process on track by:
- Coaching, advising, and guiding the planning team throughout every step of the process.
- Keeping everyone focused and actively involved.
- Making sure the right issues are brought up and that no short cuts are taken.
- Keeping track of all discussions, brainstorming sessions, and decisions.
- Maintaining documentation.
The consultant makes sure that management is actively engaged throughout the strategic planning process. It is very important that management feels ownership of the strategy and that there’s complete buy-in.
Providing methods and tools
Based on their experience in strategic planning, a consultant provides planning methods and tools, streamlining the process. The methodology provides the framework for gathering market intelligence, conducting strategic discussions, identifying and evaluating options, and sound decision making.
The result of the comprehensive process is a business strategy that is well-thought-out and more robust than what might come out of a loosely defined process.
Advising on business strategy
A strategic planning consultant helps the business owner identify and evaluate new opportunities.
As an “outsider”, a strategic planning consultant offers an objective, fresh perspective, not influenced by corporate culture, groupthink, or “not-invented-here”. This enables the consultant to create clarity, present new ideas, and make suggestions and recommendations to help management see the business in a new light.
Sharing strategy planning experience
Working with a strategic planning consultant allows smaller firms that may be new to strategic planning to learn more about the process and become familiar with the methods and tools themselves. As a result, management will adopt a new mindset about the goals and direction of the business. This has benefits far beyond the initial strategic planning project.
Having become familiar with the planning process, on subsequent strategic planning efforts, management will already know the process, reducing the need for an external consultant. At least, if a strategy consultant is brought in, the planning sessions will move along quicker and with greater focus. The result is a more effective process for updating the firm’s strategic plan.
Assessing capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses
To learn about the state of the business and its competitive position, a strategy consultant conducts an objective, thorough assessment of the firm. Good or bad, they should always call it as they see it.
A candid assessment of the business identifies the strengths and weaknesses and sheds light on opportunities that could be explored.
Asking probing questions
While it’s important to be sensitive to corporate culture and to have a professional “bedside manner”, a good strategy consultant should not avoid bringing up sensitive topics.
Strategic planning is about setting a new direction. This requires questioning the status quo. If difficult topics are avoided, the whole effort of developing a business strategy becomes futile. The strategy consultant was brought in to help create a strategic plan to grow the firm, not to rubber-stamp the present situation and leave things the way they are.
Conducting research and analysis
Strategic decision-making requires good information. A strategy consultant helps by collecting market intelligence, carrying out research, and conducting analysis on markets, customers, competitors, and industry trends. This generates the insight that’s critical to identifying and evaluating the best opportunities for growth.
In addition, the consultant can create forecasts, financial models, and conduct “what-if” scenario analysis.
Developing the strategic plan
The strategy consultant works with management on clearly formulating the business strategy that came out of the planning process. In addition, the consultant makes sure that business goals, strategies, tasks, budgets, and timelines for the strategy implementation are properly defined and documented in the strategic plan.
The strategic plan clearly spells out what the firm is going to do to achieve the strategic objectives as well as the tasks and responsibilities for key individuals and departments.
Supporting the implementation
Without acting on the agreed-upon strategic decisions, the entire strategic planning effort will have been futile. It’s the implementation where the rubber hits the road. Unfortunately, research shows that many strategic initiatives flounder due to poor implementation.
By being involved in the execution of the strategic plan the strategy consultant can help keep everyone accountable and on task. And, by being in the loop, the consultant can continue to advise management about whether the business strategy is working and if any course corrections are needed.
Hopefully, this post has shed some light on how a strategic planning consultant helps to develop and implement a smart business strategy. Looking forward to your comments.
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