2. The strategic planning process

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The first step in any strategic plan is outlining your objectives and scope. That is, what exactly are you aiming to achieve?

During this process, keep in mind the SMART acronym. Ask yourself if your goals and targets are:

Graphic that spells out the 5 letters in the SMART acronym: "Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based."
By: Katherine Lymn, TheImproveGroup

Once you have a goal, establish what resources are available to you. Do you need to involve other people? Will you require any financial input? What time do you have available to dedicate to this project among your existing responsibilities?

Next, write down a schedule, with regular review points where you look back and reflect on what you've achieved, and what you still need to do. The act of writing down your deadlines and goals is proven to help you stick to them.

Recognise any assumptions and biases that you have going into the project. You will ALWAYS have some assumptions - identifying them as much as possible can help you be prepared if they turn out to be false. Examples of assumptions include, for example, that you won't experience equipment failures or that other people involved the project will remain available during the entire life cycle of the project. Nobody will get sick, no laptops will die, and no global pandemic will require everyone to shift to online workspaces.

Then, ask yourself what the dependencies of your project are. For example, do you need to raise a certain amount of money before you can buy a piece of equipment, or before you can complete a certain aspect of the project?

Finally, create a risk assessment plan, where you predict what could go wrong, and come up with a plan for how you will deal with it if it does. Problems will always come up, no matter how well you’ve planned a project. That's why you need a backup. For example, what happens if you don't get the grades you need to enter the university of your choice? How will you readjust your plan to get back on track? You could study a different degree and swap over, or take a gap year and get practical work experience.

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