Provide a Process
The Strategic Planning consultant should provide a proven, effective process to analyze and understand the organization, its competitive position and a method for developing solutions.
Ask Probing, Challenging Questions
To maintain the integrity of the strategic planning process and prevent it from becoming a token effort, the consultant needs to ask management tough, challenging and probing questions. Answering these questions may sometimes be uncomfortable, even personal, but they shed light on the key reasons for the company’s lack of performance.
The consultant cannot and should not avoid stepping on toes. It is essential to the success of the Strategic Planning process that the key issues are exposed and discussed in a mature, professional, objective and rational manner. There is no room for sacred cows or taboo topics; anything and everything should be open for discussion.
Challenge the Status-Quo
The company’s performance cannot be improved if the status-quo is never challenged and management is not willing and able to discuss, let alone implement, change.
Honest, Candid Assessment
Consultants can and should call it as they see it. They must openly discuss organizational, individual or group weaknesses with the executive team. It is the consultant’s professional obligation to conduct a candid assessment and report the results.
Difficult issues must be discussed with the management team and the need for real change explained if Strategic Planning is to be successful and impact the company’s future. Leaving sensitive issues unaddressed weakens the organization, and prevents it from finding real solutions and improving performance.
Keep What Works
Every business has its strengths as well. A consultant should recognize these strengths and focus on preserving the successful elements of the business.
Identify and Address What Doesn’t Work
The most important thing the consultant must deliver is objective information about the company’s weaknesses and what’s not working and what that means to the options the company has available.
Analysis and Hands-on Involvement
It is the consultant’s responsibility to develop a sound understanding of the client’s business as well as the company’s organizational structure. This insight is important to properly evaluate the business and recommend ways for improvement.
In addition, the consultant provides additional manpower to the strategic planning team, working side-by-side with management, carrying out market research, formulating and evaluating strategic options, creating financial projections, and so on.
Link Strategy with Execution
The purpose of Strategic Planning is not to create a thick, impressive document that sits on the bookshelf, but to develop a detailed action plan for achieving growth that is ready for execution.
Without skillful implementation of the plan the company is no better off than it was before the Strategic Planning effort. The consultant can play a watch dog role during the execution phase to make sure that everything stays on track.
A Strategic Planning consultant can bring a fresh, independent perspective, expertise as well as hands-on manpower to a strategic planning effort. Next time your small company is thinking about developing a strategic plan, consider hiring a Strategic Planning consultant.