Take a close look at those NFL coaches on a Sunday afternoon.
See that clipboard they are carrying? Ever wonder what purpose it serves - beyond something to slam to the ground in frustration when their quarterback gets sacked?
The clipboard holds The Game Plan - a blueprint for victory. Carefully designed by team stakeholders (coaches, scouts, players), The Game Plan contains offensive plays and defensive alignments that - if executed effectively - secure victory.
It's shocking how many businesses don't have a Game Plan. More than 90 percent of failed businesses either did not have a Strategic Plan or had a poorly designed one, according to Forbes.com. It's logical to assume the Cleveland Browns belong in that category.
So what makes a Strategic Plan successful (like the one Peyton Manning used in the most recent Super Bowl)? When looking at the game film, there are five common elements:
A Focus on the Core Mission.
The planning process starts by determining: What do we need to do? Too many businesses fail because the owners (and employees) did what they wanted to do, instead of what they needed to do in order to succeed.
Strategic Plans must have a discovery process. Discussions with employees, partners, customers, potential customers help develop and sharpen goals and action items. Top-down Strategic Plans get sacked every time.
Anyone can sit in a room and write a plan. Well-meaning ideas always sound doable in a meeting. Every goal and action item requires a thorough scouting report that answers the question: "What does it really take to make this happen?"
Investment in resources.
If a goal is listed, then it is a priority. And, if it is a priority, there must be a commitment of dollars and time. If a Strategic Plan contains an unfunded mandate, send it to the sideline.
Every deliverable in a Strategic Plan should be assigned a person responsible for making it happen (and when). The team captain marshals the measurable outcome, and is graded accordingly.
Finally, one other extra point.
Strategic Plans also should be adaptable - especially if market forces change or opportunities present themselves.
If the running back gets stuffed for a loss every time he runs to the right side, change the Game Plan and run him to the left.
Jeff Owen is proprietor of J Owen Media, which provides digital content and inbound marketing services for small businesses and nonprofit organizations.
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