Is Strategic Planning a mystical art conjured over a cauldron to provide a vision into the future, OR is it simply laying out the company values, vision, identifying risks and working out how to measure success – common sense?
This article takes a deep dive into why establishing a Strategic Plan is a key requirement for any business, and critical to developing a good ISO 9001 Quality Management System (or any ISO Management System for that matter).
Why do you need a Strategic Plan for ISO 9001?
Well technically you don’t, clause 4.1 of ISO 9001 doesn’t state that you need one, but it does include a requirement for an organisation to identify issues (both external and internal) that are relevant to its purpose and strategic direction.
But 4.1 isn’t the only place ISO 9001 makes reference to strategic direction, it also makes an appearance at:
- ISO 9001 Clause 5.1 – The Quality Policy and Quality Objectives must be compatible with the Strategic Direction of the organization.
- ISO 9001 Clause 5.2 – The Quality Policy must support the Strategic Direction of the organization.
- ISO 9001 Clause 9.3 – Management Review must ensure the suitability, adequacy effectiveness and alignment of the Quality Management System with the Strategic Direction of the organization.
In order to identify issues relevant to the strategic direction, it is assumed that the company knows what that strategic direction is; however often this is often not the case.
So how do you establish a strategic direction? You document it – you develop a Strategic Plan!
A well documented Strategic Plan is usually developed by the board or senior management team, and it should serve as the starting point for the organisation to build and develop the ISO Management System. This means that your Quality, Safety or Environmental management systems should be aligned with and support the delivery of the Strategic Plan – the management system should cascade down from the Strat Plan.
What you don’t want to see is a Strat Plan that drives the organisation in one direction, whilst the Quality Management System is heading in a completely different direction – unrelated and not directly tied to the Strategic Plan.
Of course, we have a Strategic Plan – it’s in my head!
Having a clearly documented strategic plan is something that many businesses overlook. The answer I often get when I ask a Director for their strategic plan is “of course we have a Strategic Plan – it’s in my head!”
Great! but if the person at the top is the only one who knows where the company is heading (ie it isn’t clearly communicated) then the management team and employees are basically flying blind. The strategic plan is extremely important as it clearly lays out the organisation’s values, vision, risks & restraining forces and provides targets to measure success – the achievement of the plan.
Like all things, strategic planning can be unnecessarily overcomplicated but keep it short, concise and easy to understand. It should be available to all departments and personnel so that the whole organisation is aware of which direction the company is heading.
Strategic Plan Template
Here is a template of a Strategic Plan – download pdf HERE. It is loosely modeled around the old adage of:
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to be? and
- What do we need to do to get there?
But also includes:
- What do we stand for?
- What might get in our way?
- How do we know when we get there?
The first section of the Strategic Plan template is the company values, where an organisation can set the cultural tone by documenting what it stands for and the key factors it sees as important. This is the “What Do We Stand For” section and may include something like:
- Customer Focus – we will focus on the customer first – all else will follow.
- Quality – we will get it right the first time and continually pursue perfection.
- Enthusiasm – enthusiasm is the mother of effort – without it, nothing great was ever achieved, and nothing is as contagious.
- Integrity and Honesty – we will be impeccable with our words and speak with integrity and honesty.
- Accountability – we are accountable for our actions and never compromise our values.
- Patience and Perseverance – we will use patience and perseverance to overcome obstacles without giving up.
The company vision is the “Where do we want to be?” statement. What are we trying to achieve? The Vision Statement may include strategic aims such as:
- Market share
- Market segments
- Workforce growth
- Workforce diversification
- Supply chains
- Quality, Safety & Environment
- Financial growth etc
The methods column is the “How are we going to get there” section. At a high level, work out what needs to happen to achieve each of the Vision items.
This section isn’t meant to be an exhaustive action list, but a list of key list of requirements that need to be completed in order to achieve the vision statement aims.
Obstacles & Risks
The obstacles and risks column is the “What might get in our way?” part where we can identify the risks or restraining forces (if you are familiar with force field analysis) – what are the significant factors that may affect our ability to achieve the aims documented in the Vision Statement.
Note that the high-level risks should be incorporated into the organisation’s risk register and managed per the established risk management framework.
Objectives & Targets
This section of the Strat Plan is the “How do we know when we get there”. How do we measure success? These objectives should be Smarter ie Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound, Evaluated and Reviewed.
See HERE for more information on Smarter ISO Objectives.
Objectives and targets should be measurable and typically use data and statistics such as market data, customer satisfaction, and financial data.
Strategic Plan Review
Naturally, the Strat Plan should be reviewed regularly to ensure it is still current and the organisation is on track to achieving the objectives/targets and fulfilling the deliverables documented in the Vision Statement.
In the event that external or internal factors have influenced the strategic direction of the organisation then the Strat Plan may need to be updated to reflect the revised requirements.
Strategic Planning isn’t a mystical art, nor is it rocket science, it is simply about establishing a clear but comprehensive plan to move the business forward.
A Strategic Plan is a great first step in the development of any ISO Management System. It provides all areas of the business with insight into the vision that senior management has for the company and can confirm that an organisation’s operations are working to achieve the strategic goals of the company.
Note: for the next deep-dive article in our ISO 9001 Series see here: 4.2 Understanding the Needs and Expectations of Interested Parties.
How Streamline can help
Streamline ISO 9001 Consultants can help develop Strategic Plans to meet ISO requirements and provide a framework to move your business ahead.
Our trained and experienced ISO 9001 Consultants have a 100% track record achieving certification for our clients and we guarantee your Quality management system will get certified by a JAS-ANZ accredited Certification Body.
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