On March 16, the NCAA will kick off what is arguably the most exciting two days in sports of the year – the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament. There are 351 teams that could possibly be playing on Thursday, but only 64 will be. Why? Just because they have better players? Yes, to some extent, but, whether a perennial powerhouse or this year’s Cinderella story, these teams all have one thing in common; they have plans in place that map how they will win. They know their strengths and they know their weaknesses, they know how to make the best of both against the competition, they put their plan to the test in the game, the coaching staff makes sure the right people are on the floor at the right time, and they make changes on they fly when it is necessary to guarantee the win.

It’s not so different in business, is it? How many of your companies have a strategic plan? I guarantee a lot of you do. I also know that the vast majority of you are not satisfied with your plan; research done by Accenture finds that 80% of organizations are dissatisfied with their planning process. Out of curiosity, I ran a Google search for ‘Strategic Planning Process;’ can you guess how many results I got? 58,300,000!!! If millions of people see the value in strategic planning, then why is it so hard to build an effective one?

At JERA Partnerships, we work with organizations to build actionable strategic plans, and we have found that creating an effective one necessitates including all of these ingredients:


Every single strategic planning template I researched as I prepared to write this, includes some version of ‘determine where you are today,’ and that is certainly a critical step. What about how you got there, though? What did you do right to put you in the position you are in today? What failures (we all have them!) have contributed to the state of your business? Having the perspective to understand how your past has impacted where you are today goes a long way toward informing what is next.


Now that you understand where you are and how you got there, it is time to plan where you want to go. Dream big here! This is the strategic vision that will be the foundation for all the work to follow.


Congratulations – you have determined the path forward for your company! Now what? Well, let’s operationalize this, baby! Start to dig in and determine what steps are important to take now to continually move you closer to your strategic vision.


You have just done some phenomenal work starting to operationalize your vision. Now take a step back for the long view – are you set up to achieve it? Are the right people in the right places? Will your infrastructure support it? If you discover that it is not, then shift and alter as necessary.


Review, review, review! Scrub your plan quarterly so you can see how are you doing and track your progress. Are you getting the results you intended from the initiatives you defined in your Action step? If not, adjust and adapt as needed along the way – a strategic plan should never be written in stone!


At the end of the year, rinse and repeat. Review your plan, determine what worked, determine what didn’t. Be purposeful about what can come off the plan and what needs to be added.

Now you know how to create an effective strategic plan:

  • Understand where you have been
  • Dream big about where you want to go
  • Act thoughtfully and wisely to get there
  • Assess your organizational structure’s viability
  • Adjust and adapt where necessary
  • Renew your plan to account for all you accomplished and what comes next

Follow these steps, and, before you know it, your organization will be cutting down its own championship net! Happy Planning!

Lori Demshar, an award-winning and proven sales leader, is JERA Partnerships’ Director of Strategic Engagement. She engages leaders, teams, and organizations to help them do their best work at all levels.