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Strategy. Why it matters--especially if you’re small or growing

The new version of ISO 9001, to be released late in 2015, has a heavy emphasis on strategy. This blog discusses a couple of the many reasons that strategic planning is important, and more importantly, beneficial for small companies.

When asked about their strategic objectives, I’ve heard one specific answer many times in the past 5 years: increase sales. While, at one level, it’s logical (we need to grow, so we need more sales) at another level it is a key indicator of a group without the strategy and vision to allow them to grow. In those same years, I’ve watched companies that had struggled for years suddenly begin a transformation--and while friends and competitors were struggling or shutting their doors, the companies with a strategic plan supported by data analysis have transformed into a group making double digit profit year over year.

Imagine you are a small ship in a vast ocean. You need to know several key factors:

  • Where you’re going

  • What route you’re going to take

  • What weather conditions your ocean craft can handle, or not

  • What advance notification and equipment your crew needs to be prepared for the voyage

Similarly, a business of any size needs:

  • A compass (clearly defined focus drives all strategic decisions)

  • A strategic path (measurable mile-markers to get from the present to the goal)

  • Key indicators in every sector (defined objectives that are measured monthly to drive decisions)

  • Staff who understand the plan, and who can implement it. (common language is foundational to team success)

Imagine This

I’m a business owner. Maybe I inherited a family business, or joined a company which has grown past startup and is struggling to weather the new normal since 2008. If asked about their processes, most employees would say “we’ve always done it this way,” and if watched for a while would use a patchwork collection of tools and work-arounds to get their daily tasks done. Some employees don’t realize that the patchwork impacts efficiency; many owners don’t even remember the initial problem or lack of information that led to the additional ‘patches’ on their system. More often than not small business grow from an entrepreneur’s brain child into a group with a collection of tools that worked fine when smaller, but were each selected as a crisis arose. Rarely have those tools, or production practices and processes, been viewed as an integrated whole and evaluated as a system to determine how well they help you meet not just today’s goal but also tomorrow’s strategic goals. Peter Drucker once said that a form should stand trial for its life every two years. I’d like to suggest that not just our forms, but our systems, and our processes--the way we use the tools to get the job done--could all use the same evaluation. PQA has spent the last year doing this with our business; we’re watching employee stress decrease as confusion is lifted into the light for resolution; efficiency improves as we find tools that fit our culture and business needs and staff engagement and ownership increase as we develop and monitor new strategies as a group.

Suggestion: Don’t wait until ISO 9001:2015 forces you to face “that strategy thing”. Make the time now to plan, shape your common language, set your 1-, 3-, and 5-year strategic goals and paths, define the resources you will need to get there and the metrics that you will use to identify if you are on course.

If you read only one book this year, consider Getting the Right Things Done by Pascal Dennis. Dennis uses the story of a company transformation to outline the key principles, tools, and practices necessary for business strategy deployment. Even if you’re not pursuing Lean implementation, this book, if used by the whole leadership team, has the capacity to transform a company that has been “just trying to survive” into an effective, strategic, purpose driven dynamo.

Have questions? We’re always here to help in your pursuit of continual improvement.


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