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Six Essential Steps for Effective Strategic Planning

Six Essential Steps for Effective Strategic Planning main image

For many students, the beginning of the new year is the perfect time to start some smart strategic planning for the year ahead. I always suggest starting these strategic planning exercises early in your time as a student, as it will help you develop skills which will become important as you progress with your studies and develop your entrepreneurial abilities.

Here are six easy steps you can follow to help ensure you can plan strategically like a successful entrepreneur in 2019.

Set your strategic vision

Almost every single textbook about strategic planning suggests setting up strategic goals to achieve in the long-term. This is easy to say but so difficult to do when your plans for the year ahead can often feel quite vague.

I usually suggest exercising your imagination by brainstorming at least one full page of 15-20 goals and ideas – whatever comes to mind.

The next step is to downsize this list to five long-term goals and objectives using the methods of exclusion, SWOT analysis, scenario planning or other analytical tools.

At this stage, don’t worry if your goals and objectives might need regular revision in the future. After all, strategic plans shouldn’t be written in stone, and should be regularly revised if adjustments are needed.

Identify the resources and tools needed to achieve your goals

At this stage, it’s important to avoid the “simplification trap” – many students often immediately start considering and calculating only their financial resources, but the reality is that other, non-tangible assets may be more important to your goals.

For example, you might have access to certain professional software, equipment, conference rooms or office space, which you can use to accomplish your objectives.

teamwork between young entrepreneurs

Find a team you can work with

Basketballer and Space Jam star Michael Jordan often said: "Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships".

It’s vital to remember that success depends not only on financial reports but also on how well you mobilize people and build your teams.

So, you need to identify your “strategic drivers” – the people who will help you accomplish your goals. These people could come from your network of alumni and classmates, or from visiting business executives and investment angels.

Skillfully mobilizing and teaming up with strategic drivers is essential for long-term success in implementing your vision.

Use a five-step action plan to stay on top of things

One of the simplest ways to develop your plan is to use a five-step action matrix which divides the execution of your vision into specific steps (set, plan, assess, mobilize and execute).

In addition, your strategy should include at least three routes of advancing forward: working with people; working with documentation, data and research; and working with social media and cyberspace.

Be prepared to constantly review your plans

Experts in the field of strategic management suggest you should periodically review and revise your strategic vision, goals and action plans.

One useful trick in creating a competitive environment is to discuss your strategic plans with your classmates and friends and make them hold you accountable for your goals. Maybe even offer to cook them dinner if you fail to achieve certain targets.

Nothing is a better motivator for keeping people on track than a healthy contest, a competitive environment and the desire to win.

Stay well-informed about how new technologies could aid your work

The best business leaders stay ahead of the competition by planning strategically and adapting to include new technologies in their plan as they become available.

Recently, we’ve seen many managers in large and small corporations begin to integrate apps and software into their strategic planning process, with several strategic planning apps available. Some companies have even begun integrating AI into their products.

So, experimenting with these new apps and technologies will ensure both your planning and your business idea stay one step ahead of the competition.

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Rafis Abazov's profile image
Written by Rafis Abazov
Dr Rafis Abazov is a visiting professor at Al Farabi Kazakh National University, Almaty, Kazakhstan, where he also manages a joint program with Earth Institute of Columbia University (New York, USA). He has written 10 books, including The Culture and Customs of the Central Asian Republics (2007) and has regularly contributed op-eds to The New York Times. Mr Abazov enjoys collecting rare books on British exploration of Central Asia and reading travelogues on Central Asia and the Middle East by Eugene Schuyler, Vladimir Bartold and Lord George Curzon. He has also authored photo exhibitions about his trips to Central Asian republics, Turkey and Afghanistan. Contact info: Office 1400 Rectorat, 71 Al Farabi Ave., Al Farabi KazNU, Almaty, 050040, Kazakhstan

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Dear professor Abazov!

Gorgeous article!

Such steps absolutely illustrate the necessary plan for achieving new goals for every up-to-date person. I clearly remember everything what you taught us about at our disciplines and mostly at our MDP projects. Such kind of strategic planning helped us to do our projects on time and I still keep on using such kind of tools as in my studying and working processes, so in simple daily life!

Hi Rafis,

Thank you for the good post.

Finding a team, creating and reviewing a proper action plans will play a key role in strategic planning. In addition, finding the valuable resources or tools to accomplish your goals will reach you to the next level. Hence, be patient and plan accordingly.