VMEC Strategy Plan

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If You Fail to Plan…

We’ve all heard the old maxim about the need to plan, and no one doubts the importance of having a well-formed Strategic Plan. The Harvard Business Review, however, finds that just 11% of executives are happy with their strategic planning process. And as with many other aspects of business, the need to act is taking on new levels of urgency.

Without a process to act, the plan can be all light and no heat—and without a plan, action can lead to a whole lot of effort without meaningful improvement or growth.

VMEC works with companies to integrate Strategy Deployment with the Strategic Planning process; this is another application of the proven Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle.

“First you have to understand ‘the why’,” says VMEC Professional Manufacturing and Business Growth Advisor Carla Wuthrich. “Successful planning and deployment demand an understanding of your mission, vision, and values.” The plan will require a study of the market and customers while focusing on top- and bottom-line growth, among many other things. “Effective communication throughout the organization,” Carla adds, “will give leaders a chance to engage the workforce on the ‘how’.”

“Strategic planning must take place at the executive level; they must create the strategy,” says Karl Swanke, Carla’s counterpart at VMEC. “From there it spreads into the organization at large. Everyone has to know how they fit into the plan.”

VMEC’s planning and deployment process ties the pieces together so those developing the plan also effectively deploy it. “The rank-and-file on the shop floor need to understand how they move it forward and what their role is in the larger strategic effort.” Karl adds. “When people work together toward a common goal and are willing to sacrifice their own desires for the good of the team, great things will happen.”

In other words, although leadership creates the plan, the strategy is only realized when everyone in the organization is an active player on the team. Understanding the direction must be universal.

And how best to prevent gaps in that understanding? VMEC encourages clients to read the organization’s one-page summary document (sometimes called an A3) at the beginning of most meetings and project kickoffs. If not the entire document, leaders might reference some key point of the strategic plan to make sure everyone understands the overarching goals. “It’s important to give voice to the plan frequently,” Carla points out. “That way everyone has a chance to understand or ask questions if they don’t. It may start to seem repetitive, but clarity is crucial—and elusive.”

Too often, strategic plans end up “in a folder somewhere” or collecting dust on a shelf. Forcing the multi-page strategic plan into a translated, one-page communication tool requires dialog. And that two-way interaction is key.

“It’s a living communication tool to explain where we’re going and what we’re focusing on,” Karl says. “That way everyone can communicate and understand where they fit. It’s an ongoing, iterative learning process.”

The Challenge

Setting aside time to focus on the strategy, not to mention keeping it fresh within the organization, can be a persistent challenge. Teams need the freedom to gather on a regular basis to work on the improvements and innovations required. If those meetings happen only rarely, things have a tendency to fizzle before you realize it.

“That [commitment of time] gives the organization focus and emphasizes the plan’s importance,” Karl says. “They need to see that leadership cares about it, and leadership does that by setting aside time for summary meetings.”

“Another challenge is the belief that strategic planning and deployment is very difficult or that it’s a ‘one size fits all’ process. Actually, creating alignment and focus is not really that onerous. This proven process can be right-sized for almost any size business or organization – even for a department within a larger enterprise,” according to Carla. “We have clients with as few as 20 employees who effectively plan and deploy their strategic vision. They’ve learned that it’s critical to enable meeting their business objectives.”

The Planning aspect of PDCA, in other words, must establish realistic goals and move them to the Do (or deployment) phase. “Focus on what you can do,” Karl says. “Make an effort to work on the things that fit and advance your goals for the year; plan enough to make them possible.”

The Result?

Successful planning/deployment yields more than a document. It gives your business focus and an actionable way for leadership to align its workforce toward resolving the obstacles in its way.

Perhaps the best outcome, though, is overall organizational capability and adaptability. In this respect, the check/act aspects of the process come into play. Engaging employees in service of common goals breeds enthusiasm, collaboration, and creativity. “Things WILL happen,” Carla says. “You will find you CAN set a plan and get to work making dramatic change.”

The VMEC Advantage

“As a leadership coach, VMEC can help you define the strategic plan through our growth services,” Karl says. “Then we provide deployment coaching, giving business leaders content and structure [to help you move toward your goals].”

Moreover, VMEC is vested in the successful planning and deployment of client companies’ strategies. Through our mission—to strengthen and empower Vermont businesses—we enable clients to plan and deploy their plans more effectively.

If you want proof that we trust the process, consider the fact that we use it ourselves!

VMEC Clients Using Strategic Planning/Deployment Services Say…

Jeff Paquet, President and CEO at Mobile Medical International Corporation, has successfully leveraged VMEC’s strategic planning and deployment service to achieve a significant goal:

“We had a strategy, but it wasn’t concise enough to communicate abstract goals from the corner office to the shop floor. Now I have the strategy articulated in one document—on one page, really. That makes it possible to review it with employees, and they know how they’re tied to revenue, COGS, asset utilization, and more. The document is also easy to review with people like the board and our ISO auditor. When anyone wants to know how stakeholders’ expectations are going to be achieved and communicated to the company, this is a perfect way to illustrate that engagement.”

Amy Griffiths, Manager of Coagulation and Hemostasis Product Lines at Green Mountain Antibodies, meanwhile, has a VMEC consultant coming onsite weekly, and she believes this regular focus is one of the keys to their strategic planning/deployment success, as well as helping the company maintain their forward-looking vision:

“Carla has helped strengthen leadership skills in those we think will be the next generation of leaders. She encouraged us to make strategy and goals more visible, and we are already having daily meetings with everyone in the company, where we say something connected to the goals—or the strategies used to meet those goals—at the opening of every meeting. This morning, for example, we had a pop quiz. When we asked who could identify what our three goals were for 2019, almost every hand went up. A year ago, it would have been senior management only. That’s completely different from any other company I’ve been a part of, and that’s thanks to Carla bringing her expertise in for our benefit.”

The Bottom Line

VMEC’s strategic planning/deployment approach is a proven way for you or your Vermont manufacturing organization to clarify goals, establish a roadmap to meet those goals, communicate the plan to the organization, and get everyone pulling in the same direction. To learn more, contact VMEC today!