One simple but powerful exercise to set the foundation for effective planning is an "organizational SWOTTS" analysis. This procedure helps focus your attention, helps keep the planning process grounded and sets a baseline to measure future progress against.
The SWOTTS diagnostic analysis is similar to what your physician does to assess your health condition but thankfully it doesn't involve tests of bodily fluids; just honest answers to some straight forward questions.
Strengths: What are your major strengths today? What makes you a really unique organization? What do you do that keeps your competitors up at night? Are your strengths unique?
Weaknesses: What are your major weaknesses? What areas need improvement? What are the soft spots in your organization? What can your competitors exploit against you?
Opportunities: What opportunities exist today? What opportunities can you develop? What can you take advantage of? Do you have the resources to accomplish them?
Trends: What are the major business, demographic, economic, sociological, or technological trends that will impact your organization? Will they impact you in a favorable or unfavorable way? How can you take advantage of the favorable ones and how can you mitigate the unfavorable?
Threats: What are the major threats to your organization? What could crush you and threaten your very survival? What hurdles must you overcome in order to survive and thrive?
Strategic Issues: What are the major internal strategic and tactical issues you must deal with in the months and years ahead? What must you do to secure your future?
A SWOTTS analysis is a good first step in the planning process but it's only the beginning. As Confucius noted "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Are you ready to step into your future?