Strategic planning is essential for farm businesses seeking to improve and grow. Yet if producers fail to think through their agenda for a strategic planning meeting, the outcome can be inefficient and ineffective.
Instead, farm operators and their teams should ask themselves a series of three questions—and take three steps afterward—to achieve maximum success, advises Sarah Beth Aubrey, a farm business consultant and author who has simplified the process with her Strategic Plan on a Page approach.
“These questions are pretty simple, but if you take a few minutes on your own and with others in your operation to think through them, I think the process will go smoother and be more productive,” says Aubrey, who recently presented a Top Producer webinar on the topic of preplanning for strategy meetings. She will speak on strategic planning at the 2016 Tomorrow’s Top Producer conference June 16-17 in Nashville. A recording of her earlier webinar on the five pillars of strategic planning is available on AgWeb.com.
During preplanning discussions, Aubrey says, you and your team should ask yourselves:
Are you committed to better planning?
In an operation where multiple people will be involved in the strategic planning process, Aubrey suggests having a discussion about how to make the plan work for everyone.
Will you use the plan and update it?
Easy implementation is among the goals of Aubrey’s one-hour plan. “A plan that is not looked at, and is not updated, and is not altered, and is not changed as things change, is not really worth it,” she says. When plans need modification, take the opportunity to monitor your progress and reassess goals.
With whom will you share your plan on a page?
Strategic plans are not secret and should be shared with those who support your operation. These people can provide feedback, ideas and accountability, and might include key employees, spouses, advisers and peers.
The planning process can include as many people as necessary, Aubrey says. Once you have identified those individuals, the next step is to finish your preplanning discussions by taking three steps.
Step #1: Get Input
Start asking questions that will help structure your plan. Peer advisory programs such as Farm Journal’s Top Producer Executive Network (TPEN), are a great way to begin gathering input, says Aubrey, who is also a TPEN facilitator. You can ask other peer group members what they have done in the past, what has worked for them and what they think are key factors to consider in a strategic direction.
Step #2: Assign Prework
If you are going to have a group planning session, Aubrey says, ask everyone involved to first go through each of the five pillars of the Strategic Plan on a Page individually. The pillars are: core values, future vision, SWOT analysis, SMART goals and prioritization. She also recommends reviewing previous plans, mission statements, goals and financials.
Step #3: Block the Time
Send out a calendar invitation and require attendees to confirm their participation a few days in advance. “Make sure you block that time, make sure everyone is aware and confirm,” Aubrey says. She also recommends going offsite for your meeting to minimize distractions.
You can hear Aubrey present in-depth information about her Strategic Plan on a Page process June 16-17 at the Tomorrow’s Top Producer conference in Nashville.