Let’s assume you’ve articulated a good vision and you’re committed to strategic planning as the way to achieve that future. Only one thing is missing – the present! Where are you now and how do you start building from there? It’s surprising how often strategic planning efforts exclude a thorough analysis of the current situation. Unfortunately, this can result in gaps, confusion, and potentially, a failure to execute. An organizational assessment or performance audit provides the foundation and context for strategic planning success. Here are three areas to assess:
1) Know Your Numbers
Examine financial results. Businesses should track profitability and cash flow by product and service. For local governments or non-profits, review cash flow by fund. Be prepared to restate your financials for better clarity, forecasting, and decision making. What if you discover you have an unprofitable service that consumes a lot of your time? Eliminating or restructuring that service may be the key to finding time and money to invest somewhere else.
Complete a capital plan. Consider all projects, equipment, and rolling stock. Research the financing options for each and quantify the annual cash flow impact. Don’t forget to calculate any financial returns or stakeholder satisfaction impact. Some purchases may be more affordable than you think.
Create a long term forecast model for scenario analyses. Include the information above in your model to understand your options and trade-offs. Seeing your plans unfold over time in a financial model reduces uncertainty and aids decision making.
2) Know Yourself
Examine your value proposition. What sets your organization and its products and services apart from competitors? Why should customers, partners, and suppliers do business with you?
Review stakeholder feedback. What do customers, partners, suppliers, employees and citizens have to say about you? Are there surveys or feedback mechanisms to capture their input?
Analyze operational processes. The success of every organization relies on the sum of its processes. How productive are your marketing efforts? What’s the satisfaction level of your service delivery? Are your back office administration processes efficient and accurate?
Assess personnel skills. Is a business partner especially talented in sales or research? Does an employee have a passion around social media, special events, or community service? Acknowledging personal and cultural traits in your organizational assessment often provides clues to solutions in your plan.
3) Know Your Improvement Opportunities – Document your findings from above and prioritize potential projects. Consider the resources required and the potential savings of each project. Then, merge this current project list with your anticipated future project list and note any conflicts or synergies. If your staff is already committed to critical projects, that limits your ability to tackle new work. Likewise, understanding the savings from these projects could free up resources later. It’s better to sort this out proactively now vs. getting stressed over missed deadlines later.
An organizational assessment clarifies your financials, people, projects, and workload – and your options. Laying this foundation builds consensus in the present for your leadership team and staff. Then you can dovetail this with your future, on your journey to strategic planning success.