The clearer your idea of where you want your business to go in the long term, the better you’ll be positioned to chart a course that will take you there. Strategic management is the process of setting a hierarchy of organizational goals for the short- and long-term, and using these milestones to gauge progress.
Short-Term Objectives Based on Long-Term Goals
Strategic management starts with a big picture mission and vision. This concept is a clearly articulated statement expressing your overall reason for being in business, whether you aim to earn as much money as possible or to make the world a better place. Once you craft this big picture idea, you have a guiding principle to use when making short and long term decisions. Long term goals typically cover a period of longer than five years, and they embody your mission or vision in a tangible outcome such as opening a certain number of stores over time or reducing greenhouse emissions by a specific percentage.
With a clear mission and long-term goals in place, you can then develop shorter term objectives or milestones that will move you in the direction you want to go. By considering the big picture when you think about day-to-day operations, you move your company in a cohesive direction and avoid unnecessary missteps.
Quantifiable Strategic Objectives
A management strategy based on long-term goals will be well-poised to evaluate success if you are as specific as possible about what you want to achieve. Use quantifiable objectives when articulating goals, so you can refer back and evaluate your progress. It’s far more useful to say that you want to increase sales by 20 percent per year, than to say you want to grow your business considerably. The former option provides benchmarks that your company will either hit or miss, while the latter is so vague that it’s nearly impossible to gauge whether you’ve hit your mark or have fallen short.
Although quantifiable goals will either be achieved or not, they’re certainly not all or nothing propositions. You can make appreciable progress, and still miss your goal by a fraction of a percent; or, you can be nowhere near the outcome you projected. Quantifiable goals highlight these differences and clearly show what your business still needs to achieve.
Reflecting on the Process
Your big picture goals aren’t set in stone, but rather, they’re open to reevaluation, as circumstances unfold over time. There’s no way to predict five years into the future what the market will be like for your products or services, but this uncertainty shouldn’t deter you from visualizing the outcomes you want. Evaluate the progress you make toward your goals, and also evaluate the goals themselves over time. If they are no longer useful and relevant, articulate new ways to work toward your mission and vision.