Successful companies understand the benefits of working with a strategic planning consultant who can help them identify the best longer-term opportunities for growth.
An experienced consultant brings a fresh and independent perspective, as well as proven methods and tools to support smart decision making about the firm’s direction.
A Strategic Planning Consultant Adds Value
Strategic planning meetings run by an executive usually turn into staff meetings. The status-quo does not get challenged, and group-think goes unchecked. Sensitive issues are carefully avoided, past failures get swept under the carpet. Organizational weaknesses do not get addressed. As a result, strategic options are not thoroughly explored. This prevents the firm from identifying new opportunities and reaching its potential.
An experienced consultant brings knowledge, a sound methodology, and a fresh, objective perspective. As a company “outsider” the consultant is not constrained by culture, office politics, personal sensitivities, and groupthink.
The Role of the Strategic Planning Consultant
The consultant should be a change agent, not someone who rubber stamps the status-quo or acts as a ‘yes-man’ to management’s ideas.
It is the consultant’s job to support management in obtaining and analyzing information and making smart business decisions. That requires developing a deep understanding of the company’s culture, leadership, strengths and weaknesses, as well as the business environment and market opportunities, both short-term and long-term.
Here’s what to expect from a strategic planning consultant:
Facilitating the Process
By serving as the meeting facilitator the consultant makes sure that the strategic planning sessions are productive and stay on track.
Asking Probing, Challenging Questions
To maintain the integrity of the process and prevent it from becoming a token effort, the consultant needs to ask tough questions. Answering these questions may sometimes be uncomfortable, even personal. But, these questions can provide deep insight into the state of the business and where it may need to go.
A consultant who is serious about what they do does not avoid stepping on toes. It is essential that key issues are exposed and discussed in a mature and rational manner. There can be no room for sacred cows or taboo topics.
Challenging the Status-Quo
Questioning the status-quo is a critical facet of effective strategic planning. If challenging the status quo is a “no-go”, the key issues that stand in the way of change will never get addressed. If that situation it is pointless to conduct strategic planning in the first place.
It is not until the corporate culture has matured and the status quo can be questioned, that strategic planning becomes a worthwhile activity.
Conducting an Honest Assessment
Difficult issues must be discussed and the need for real change explained if the planning effort is to be successful and impact the company’s future. Leaving sensitive issues unaddressed prevents real change from taking place.
Keeping What Works
Of course, every business has certain strengths. An experienced consultant recognizes this and focuses on preserving these strengths. These strengths are great vantage points for defining the company’s competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Identifying What Doesn’t Work
Just as it is important to identify the company’s strengths, the consultant must also deliver objective information about the company’s weaknesses and what’s not working. Addressing these weaknesses becomes an integral part of the strategic planning process.
Critical weaknesses need to get corrected. Other weaknesses may form a constraint to the strategic options the company has available.
Doing Analysis and Being Involved
It is the consultant’s responsibility to develop a sound understanding of the client’s business as well as the company’s organization. This insight is important to properly evaluate the business and recommend ways for improvement.
In addition, the consultant enhances the planning team, carrying out market research, carrying out analysis, formulating and evaluating strategic options, developing financial projections, and contributing to the development of the strategic vision.
Linking Strategy with Execution
The goal of the strategic planning effort is to develop a comprehensive action plan that can be executed. Not a thick, impressive looking document that sits on the bookshelf. Without the skillful implementation of the action plan the company is no better off than it was before.
A strategic planning consultant can continue to advise the organization during the implementation, making sure that the project stays on track and that deliverables are met.
For a strategic planning effort to produce results it is important to abandon any ‘not-invented-here’ thinking. A strategic planning facilitator brings a fresh, independent perspective, and expertise. In addition, the consultant can become an integral part of the planning team and also support the implementation of the strategic action plan.