How to Be Effective at Strategic Planning

It's easy to look at strategic planning as something that can be done tomorrow. But procrastinate too much and you'll end up with a business that isn't ready to deal with change.

"You have to be action-oriented and decisive," says Steven Plochocki, who has helped lead Quality Systems, Inc. from $186.5 million in revenue when he arrived as CEO in 2008 to $430 million in 2012. "You also have to have a core group of leaders who are the same way."

Here are a few tips to ensure your company has a strategy to deal with whatever the future may bring.

Get away from the office

The rapid pace of change is precisely why Plochocki prefers to get away from the home office in Irvine, Calif., when it comes time to do strategic planning. "There's just too much activity," Plochocki says. "When we have our sessions, everybody turns their phones off and puts their computers away. There's nobody to walk to the door and say so-and-so is in the lobby. It's a retreat where we can talk through and think through the issues."

Establish a starting point

Plochocki is known for his ability to turn companies around. His work at InSight Health Services Inc. in the early 2000s doubled the company's size and increased its share price by nearly 250 percent while he was in charge.

One of the keys to his success is recognizing a need for a foundation upon which to build your new strategy. "You have to start with where you're at," Plochocki says. "What are you up against? Where are you versus budget? What are the market conditions like? What are your competitors doing? You have to have factual information on the table so that in the latter part of the meeting, you can start utilizing those facts and establish a plan and a strategy going forward."

Be the facilitator

Let the people you've empowered to lead the departments in your business do their jobs. "I moderate, but I don't do a lot of talking," Plochocki says. "My job is to facilitate the process so we come out with a plan that can help the company position itself and move itself forward based on market conditions that exist today." Your role is to keep the process moving forward.

"What are the things that can move the dial up or down?" Plochocki says. "That's when we start getting into the discussion that determines the things we'll have to do differently."

Don't think too far ahead

Plochocki prefers not to look any more than three years into the future of his business. "We like to develop a one-year plan," Plochocki says. "What are we going to do this upcoming year? We'll lay out thought processes on beyond three years and where we think the company should be and how we should be positioned. But we don't do much beyond three years. The more near-term plans are big for us."


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