Strategic Planning for the Management Business

By Gray, John T. | Journal of Property Management, September-October 1989 | Go to article overview

Strategic Planning for the Management Business


Gray, John T., Journal of Property Management


Strategic Planning for the Management Business

In the words of that sage adviser Yogi Berra, "You've got to be careful if you don't know where you're going because you might not get there."

It is all too easy to get so involved in the day-to-day fire fights of the property management business. Developing a periodic strategic plan for your management business helps provide a vital long-range, macro vision. A strategic plan will help your organization gain the focus, commitment, and discipline to do those things essential to survival and prosperity.

What is strategic planning?

The strategic planning process consists of an overview of where your organization is today, where you want to go, and how you get there. This planning need not be expensive and, in most cases, can be done with in-house personnel. At other times, the process may require the assistance of an outside facilitator to help keep the planning on track.

Strategic planning gives common direction and purpose to an organization. Just like a ship without a rudder, a company without a strong sense of direction may wander aimlessly. One of a manager's primary responsibilities is charting an organization's strategic course and guiding this group toward the accomplishment of that vision.

A strong strategic plan also sets firm organizational goals, objectives, and guidelines, which help employees understand their roles within the group.

The planning process

The first step in the strategic planning process is deciding who should attend structured planning meetings. Those responsible for implementing the strategic plan should have a voice in putting the plan together. Pride of authorship is an important part of gaining commitment from those who will ultimately determine the success or failure of the plan.

However, logistics and the process of interaction among the people involved necessitate limiting the number of participants to approximately 20 people. In larger companies, it is possible to have an executive-level planning committee and as many sub-committees as are necessary to involve all of those who will be able to make a contribution to the plan. Each sub-committee, in turn, contributes in its field of expertise.

In the first years of strategic planning it is preferable to limit the committees to upper management, then expand the number of people and committees as the expertise in planning grows.

The next step is to select a facilitator, who will guide the planning group through the planning process. The facilitator's purpose is to direct and enhance the process, not to provide input to the plan. A qualified facilitator has the following characteristics:

* Familiarity with the process.

* Lack of familiarity with the property management industry. A facilitator from outside the industry can concentrate on the plan and not be distracted with providing input to the plan.

* No conflict of interest with the planning group.

Prior to the planning work, the facilitator should be made familiar with the organization and the planning group. Areas to be covered in this education should include:

* The recent financial performance of the organization.

* Members of the planning group.

* Any important subjects which need attention in the strategic plan, but which might not come out in subsequent discussions for one reason or another. Some companies have "sacred cows" - subjects which are off-limits. These should be identified up front.

Our firm has successfully used the treasurer of our parent company in this role. He does an outstanding job and his fee is as many rounds of golf as he can play in four days.

It is preferable to conduct the first planning meeting away from your regular place of business. This eliminates the distraction of telephone calls, interruptions, and other nuisances. …

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