Did you ever go hiking in the beautiful NH woods, in one of our many beautiful state parks perhaps? NH state parks will have hiking trails marked and have corresponding maps available so you know where you are going. If the trails weren’t marked, wouldn’t you have a better chance getting lost in the woods, with no idea how to get to the end? The trail map and trail markings give you a plan to follow to get back to where you started.
Just as you need a trail map to get through the woods, your business needs a plan to reach its goals. It’s a strategic plan that will map the actions and directions you need to take to achieve your business’s full potential and ulti- mate goals. Your strategic plan is a powerful tool in your business’s success. With your action steps mapped out and your goals written down, you are far less likely to stray from the trail and get lost than if you just randomly picked a path to take.
A strategic plan gives you the **means to define your business**, **define your vision, define your mission, determine your goals and lay out the action steps** *that will allow you to get results.*
It is the goal-setting and goal-achievement process that helps you and all the leaders in your organization plan the steps and pull together the resources that make your vision happen. This process will get the company to fulfill its vision, where the best laid plans get converted into actions that are clearly defined and easily measured.
Goals are essential because we can see them — or read them in print. It is difficult to achieve goals we cannot see. On the hike, you look at the map and look for the corresponding trail markers or landmarks. When you can’t find the marks, you feel lost. Without the written goals and action steps, you will tend to take random actions and make spur-of-the-moment decisions that will not get you where you want to go.
In the best seller, *Good to Great,* Jim Collins discusses the Isaiah Berlin essay “The Fox and the Hedgehog.” In it, the fox waits in stealth to attack the little hedgehog. But the hedgehog rolls himself into a little ball of sharp spikes, warding of the fox. Still the fox tries, taking different tacks — but the result is always the same. The hedgehog always wins. Why?
Berlin says many people are foxes who are “scattered and diffused, moving on many levels.” The “foxes” don’t have a solid understanding of the problem, and don’t have a plan to solve it effectively. People who are hedgehogs, though,reduce problems they face to “a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything,” Collins notes. “For a hedgehog, anything that does not somehow relate to the hedgehog idea holds no relevance.”
The hedgehog assesses every situation as it relates to his own survival. As a business person, your strategic plan gives you the guidelines to which everything you do must relate. You can approach every situation, every problem and every opportunity and evaluate how it directly relates to the goals set in your plan. Having the plan in hand gives you a simple — and powerful — means to stick to your intentions, and not get waylaid. The plan is also very liberating. This cannot be overstated!! You know exactly where to go when presented with various options. You will know what fits and what doesn’t into your overall vision.
Still, many of us business leaders know all too well, that while goal setting often happens, **goal achieving is another story**. You must not only write the goals, but you must **commit to taking the action steps to achieve them**. By educating all of your employees about your strategic plan and how every decision must mold to the action plan in it, you will give them a structure within which to work. You will also develop a “positive thinking” culture within the organization.
The hiking trail analogy is a good one for you to follow as you set out the path for your company in a strategic plan.
Think of it as your road map to success — one with highly defined steps will guide every decision you and your employees make. You’ll find your business goes in the right direction — and doesn’t get off the beaten path.