Patrice O’Malley is understandably confounded by the number of manufacturing CEOs who, when asked to describe their commitment to strategic planning, metaphorically tap the side of their cranium and say, “It’s all up here.” The source of her concern is that these are not isolated executives. Our most recent State of Manufacturing® survey discovered that:

  • Only 49 percent of manufacturing CEOs say their company uses a formal strategic plan for profitable growth. That’s down four points from our 2018 survey.
  • Thirty-two percent say that “strategy is strictly the role of the CEO.”
  • Sixteen percent say their company “has some ideas but has not yet worked through what our primary focus is.”

Just 28 percent say they operate from a one-to-three-year written plan and that “all staff know their roles and actions to achieve the plan.”

Patrice is one of the business growth consultants at Enterprise Minnesota who helps position manufacturers to manage current challenges and exploit future opportunities by rethinking and retooling their business strategies. She has a decades-long experience creating and implementing business strategies, most recently at Land O’Lakes.

“All companies have a plan of some sort,” she says, “but it’s quite disappointing that people don’t really spend time on intentional business planning.” The key to successful execution, she adds, can occur only when the whole organization adopts the plan. “And that has to do with inclusiveness and communication. If the CEO is the only responsible party to execute a strategy, you’re not going to get very far.”

  • Does your corporate vision include the right combination of strategic mission, values, and objectives to help your company compete and grow?
  • Is your business effectively integrating your strategic vision into its existing organizational culture?
  • Do you understand your competition or how technological advancements will impact your business?
  • Are you incorporating your customers’ strategies into your strategic thinking?
  • Do you know how to create distinct market advantages that will be difficult for competitors to copy or substitute?

“In my perspective, strategic planning is about working on the business, not necessarily in the business,” Patrice says. “CEOs have to get better at dedicating time to focus on priorities that will help drive and achieve their business goals.”

Patrice hopes businesses will help debunk the common myth that creating strategy is a complicated, time-consuming process, or that strategy goes far beyond merely creating budgets.

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Her focus during the workshop, she says, will be to help manufacturers “understand the importance of building and using intentional business strategies to create business value and make sure their ongoing strategic planning will enhance and protect the value of their companies.”

Patrice’s workshop will also introduce participants to a business tool that includes a live assessment of a mock-up company and the many pathways available to prioritize decision-making and engage the leadership team. Most important, she says, is that the tool breaks the strategic process into meaningful action plans.

Patrice says introducing a workable strategic planning process to manufacturers can be very satisfying. “It’s fun to see the light bulbs go on, when there’s an ‘aha’ moment.” It’s even better, she adds, “when the whole leadership team shares that same experience.” Those moments frequently occur during the execution of the plan.

“The approach at Enterprise Minnesota goes beyond helping manufacturers create a strategy that delivers their vision and goals. We put a lot of emphasis on helping clients answer, ‘Okay, what’s next? How are you going to track progress against your plan?’ That’s when they get more comfortable with prioritization.”

Another benefit of these strategic discussions, according to Patrice, is that they lead to productive conversations. “People start to learn that they have more in common with each other than they might think,” which she says helps connect cross-functional departments. “And, that gives manufacturers a lot more energy.”

Featured in the Fall 2019 issue of Enterprise Minnesota magazine.

Return to Fall 2019 magazine