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Long Range Planning: Why It's Important Now

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Written by Gary Greene, Cribb-Greene & Associates

Your company dodged the bullet. You made expense cuts last year that allowed you to stay profitable. Business has stabilized the first two quarters of 2010 and you are beginning to feel that you can almost take a deep breath. But, is there another crisis around the corner? Where should you be investing your CapX dollars? What should you be doing on the digital front? Where should your immediate focus be?

As the media industry executes during the remainder of 2010 and begins budgeting for next year, we believe it is time to remind our readers to not forget long range planning. It is more essential now than ever before especially since the industry has stabilized and leadership is no longer in a management crisis mode. It's time to form a consensus around a plan that has realistic one to three year objectives.

Where should you start?

First, assuming you are out of the crisis management mode, surround yourself with the leaders in your organization that are stakeholders in your company. These people should have the authority to make decisions and be at a level to help craft a plan. Here are some thoughts on how to proceed:

· Do an honest SWOT assessment of your company (Key Strengths, Key Weaknesses, Key Opportunities, and Key Threats). This will give you a clear picture of where your company stands today.

· Review your Mission and Value Statements for relevancy and modify as appropriate. Times have changed and your Mission Statement will probably need to be modified or tweaked. Remind yourself of the values that lead your mission. They are the rudders that guide you through choppy waters.

· Establish objectives, and prioritize them in "must do" and "should do" categories. These objectives should be broad goals. Don't limit yourself in your thinking. This is a time to dream! Put fear aside! Your objectives can be either vision-based (establish a vision-based goal and work backwards in your planning) or establish issues-based goals and plan toward meeting them.

· Build business plans for "must do" objectives, including budgets and time lines. It's important to invest the time to do this phase of long-range planning. Many good ideas have died in this phase because of an inadequate business plan. After final review, drill down deeper by establishing an operations plan on each objective. This will give further detail for each of your business plans to ensure that you haven't overlooked any critical component in your planning.

· Finally, establish realistic measuring points to gauge progress toward meeting your objectives. You want to make sure that you arrive at your destination on schedule.

Long range planning helps companies focus on what's critical to their business, especially during a stressful and changing environment. It won't assure your company's success or survival, but it will give you a better opportunity to compete in what has become a much more competitive and difficult business cycle.



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