Strategic planning has been a crucial management technique that often seeks to utilize modern control strategies in the companies to monitor and evaluate their progress (Kriemadis & Theakou 2007). With the increasing business risks, market competition, changes in consumer demands, financial constraints, and human resource management problems, strategic planning has been an efficient business tool. In strategic management, planning and implementation of the strategic plan are often a critical and a challenging issue (Tse 2010). Most of the modern companies are a novice in strategic planning and this makes them face various challenges while trying to develop and implement their strategic plans (Adams 2005). Marks and Spencer is one of the companies that have recently tried to develop and implement a strategic business plan that came with numerous challenges. In light of the above concerns, this essay critically evaluates the key issues that Marks and Spencer faced in developing and implementing its strategic plan.
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The actual Meaning of a Strategic Plan
To create an in-depth understanding of the processes of developing and implementing a strategic plan, it is important to consider understanding the concept of strategic planning. According to Mittenthal (2002, p.2), “a strategic plan is a business management and assessment tool that provides a guideline in fulfilling a mission with maximum efficiency and impact.” A strategic plan has to be workable, manageable, efficient, and achievable within the stipulated timeline (Adams 2005). In strategic management, there exist several phases of strategic planning that determine the effectiveness of a strategic plan (Bennis 200S7, & Robins 2009). Strategic planning is a complex management action and a process that comprises of three significant phases that determine the efficiency of the planning. According to Mittenthal (2002), the main elements of strategic planning include development or designing, execution or implementation, and monitoring or evaluation phases. This report critically analyses the issues that Marks and Spencer faced in its strategic plan.
The Cheshire Oaks Strategic Plan
The desired strategic plan of Marks and Spencer was the Cheshire Oaks Strategic Plan. According to Marks and Spencer, the company had set up a stratagem to create several stores that would benefit the wider communities within its business environment (Gillies, Kilby, & Howard 2013). Through its stores and departments, Marks and Spencer were to provide environmental protection support, educational support, social support, and economic assistance to the surrounding communities. According to the plan of Marks and Spencer, the community that surrounds their stores is vital because it interacts directly with their customers and their workers (Gillies et al. 2013). The entire work plan was to involve a construction plan for the store, an employment strategy, a policy development plan, and a community involvement strategy. Although the company managed to achieve its desired plan, several developments within the strategy revealed that Marks and Spencer faced some significant issues in developing and implementing its strategic plan.
The Business Analysis Tools Used
In the assessment of the Cheshire Oaks Strategic Plan, this assignment opted to analyze the project using the SWOT business tool and the PESTEL business model. Velotta (2008) defines SWOT, as a business or plan assessment tool that entails four major aspects, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths are the internal factors that influence the achievement of goals, while weaknesses are the internal failures that affect the achievement of the plan or business goals (Kriemadis & Theakou 2007). Opportunities are chances that a plan or business can use to manoeuvre, while threats are the external factors that can challenge the achievement of the goals. PESTEL refers to the Political, Environmental, Social, Technological, Ethical, and Legal aspects that can influence the achievement of the desired goals in a business or a designed plan (Stopford 2001). These assessment tools are practical in the analysis of the development and execution of the Cheshire Oaks Strategic Plan.
Human Mobilisation & Human Resource Control
Several elements of strategic planning determine the effectiveness of a predetermined strategic plan (Giles 2008). In his ten keys to strategic planning, Mittenthal argued that developing a functional strategic plan requires the business developers to start by considering the available human capacity and the relevant stakeholders (2002). While trying to develop their strategic plan for Cheshire Oaks, the Marks and Spencer Corporation sought to integrate the plan through community mobilization and community engagement. Fairholm (2009) states that a strategic plan often relies on human actions, and the people or human capital are two significant elements that propagate the actions of a strategy. From a critical perspective, human mobilization was a crucial problem that affected the efficiency of the Cheshire Oaks Strategic Plan (Simerson 2011). Mobilizing the large groups of the community members and seeking their efforts seemed to be a dubious effort as the approval for the projects and construction relied predominantly upon the local authorities.
Issues of Public Consultations
Dealing with large communities is a complex issue to companies that offer community development projects (Bryson 2000, & Novitski 2005). For the Marks and Spencer team, public consultation programs were significant to their plan. In SWOT Analysis model, the Marks and Spencer managers were to use the willing population as their strength and opportunity of the strategic plan (Bryson 2000). To the advantage of Marks and Spencer, most of the residents supported the scheme, and about 106 community agreements succeeded (Gillies et al. 2013). Additionally, Marks and Spencer carried out multiple meetings with the relevant community groups such as the local action groups and the neighbouring councils. It was a good plan because the involvement of the people is an important facet of the strategic plan (Dewhurst & Fitzpatrick 2005). Nonetheless, the implementation of the Cheshire Oaks Strategic Plan failed to consider the essence of the service providers in their initial meetings.
Communication with the Stakeholders
Effective communication of a strategic plan of informing the involved persons is a significant step in ensuring that the desired plan is effective (Giles 2008). According to the principles of strategic planning, program developers must communicate the intentions, goals, objectives, and other issues that associate with a strategic plan. Marks and Spencer effectively communicated the objectives of the strategic plan, communicated with the community members, and communicated with the local authorities. In the SWOT model, technological communication is often a significant tool that enhances the efficiency of modern planning (Asghar 2011). Marks and Spencer chose to communicate with the stakeholders through official meetings, leaflets, newsletters, and address cards to show the seriousness of the plan. However, the project organizers failed to incorporate the new forms of digital media such as television, mobile Smartphone, and social media platforms at their initial stage (Gillies et al. 2013). Old communication tools showed a significant disregard for modern technology.
Policy Development and Policy Awareness
In strategic planning that entails a larger community, Poister and Streib (2005) state that it is often vital to observe the existing regulations and formulate of new policies that would support in the running of the plan. Local policies and authorities form a great part of the external environmental conditions that influence the implementation of a community project (Poister & Streib 2005). In the designing of the Cheshire Oaks Strategic Plan, Marks and Spencer considered making consultations with the local policymakers to understand the local regulations that govern project development and project initiation within the regions. According to Gillies et al. (2013), Marks and Spencer ensured that their action plan involved reaching out to the local authorities, local councils, community action groups, and other local organizations. This was a good idea because the local policies provided a legal foundation for the company to follow. In the PESTEL model, legal concerns can often affect that achievement of a strategic plan.
Consultants and their Role
One important element that often enhances the effective achievement of the desired goals is the recruitment of consultants. According to Mittenthal (2002, p. 8), “a consultant can provide invaluable assistance in designing a strategic planning process that involves all key stakeholder groups in a cost-effective way.” The plan of Marks and Spencer concerning the Cheshire Oaks Strategic Plan involved the commitment of the local community consultants, who were informative and well acquainted with the local arrangements. Such involvements made the process of planning and implementation of the project goals and objectives more efficient (Stonehouse & Pemberton 2002). However, with the complex arrangements involved in the preparation and execution of the strategic plan, dealing with the multiple stakeholders is often a challenge for the local consultants (Bradford & Duncan 2000). Also, creating the stores must have been challenging to the local community consultants due to the lack of professional consulting experience.
The Project Procumbent Issue
Marks and Spencer had planned to have a procurement plan for the construction project and the store equipment. A significant aspect that reveals itself in their procurement plan is the purchasing power of the Marks and Spencer Company (Olsen 2011). Their procurement program gave the company a chance to create economic opportunities for the local suppliers. In strategic planning, the SWOT analysis model considers financial stability as an essential strength element that determines the ability of a company to execute a plan (Olsen 2011). Marks and Spencer had a buying power that enabled them to plan effectively for the procurement, hiring of the contractors, and settling of instant costs. Nonetheless, local procurement was a challenging aspect as the procurement managers reported increased procurement costs that rose steadily. In its solution, the company argued that early planning for procurement and designing sizeable work packages could reduce pressure for the local construction companies.
The Recruitment Plans
The SWOT assessment tool acknowledges the presence of employees as an element of strength to any company that has a plan (Alford 2002). The Cheshire Oaks Strategic Plan had a suitably designed recruitment plan for the construction of the stores, management of the stores, and implementation of the plans. In achieving the Plan, Marks and Spencer developed a powerful recruitment framework for employing the senior project implementation officers, the constructors, and the local manual employees (Gillies et al. 2013). This recruitment plan enabled Marks and Spencer to have a stable human resource that monitored the project to its successful end. Nonetheless, a strategic plan should be cost-effective (Aguilar 2003). The local recruitment plan seemed costly especially in maintaining the large numbers of employees with minimal construction skills (Gillies et al. 2013). High costs and time wastage in the recruitment of the workers and menial labourers made the plan seem costly and inefficient.
The Construction of the Store Projects
In terms of strategic planning, a program objective is an important element that determines the effectiveness of a strategic plan (Bryson 2011). The construction of the store projects was the main objective of the Cheshire Oaks Strategic Plan. In the SWOT model, the strength of a strategic plan is eminent through the presence of its objective and how the companies can develop their action plans (Bryson 2011). Marks and Spencer were very concerned about the construction of the stores, which was the main goal of the company. The intuitions of Marks and Spencer team were that “the build is often the first and most visible impression residents and customers have of a store” (Gillies et al. 2013, p. 22). Despite receiving some few complaints from the residents, the construction plan faced the challenges of slowed construction, lack of quicker constructors, and pressure from the novice constructors.
The Efficiency of the Construction Plan
The construction plan was the first opportunity to demonstrate corporate responsibility, corporate professionalism, moral responsibility, and efficient preparedness in the strategic plan. In SWOT analysis, an opportunity is a chance to prove relevant to the consumers (Adams 2005). The Cheshire Oaks Strategic Plan scored highly in large construction schemes, provided educational opportunities to the locals, and received fewer negative complaints from the residents. Also, the project managers supplied surplus materials to the community groups, promoted site hoarding, and worked with the community agents effectively (Gillies et al. 2013). Even though some actions were necessary, donating surplus materials to enhance sustainability, training novice constructors, and promoting site hoardings are three dubious aspects of the construction plan that lacked a sensible risk assessment plan. There was a likelihood of facing unaccounted financial losses, poor project management, and poor coordination of the project activities. The sustainability agenda was an opportunistic idea but seemed rather complex and costly.
Supporting Skills and Training during Construction
An important aspect in the development of a new project is the consideration of the local skills and how a plan can uplift the local talents (Longman & Mullins 2004). The project development plan was a systematic process and one of its main goals was to support the local skills and provide building training during the construction. This was a perfect idea and an opportunity for the Marks and Spencer team to prove relevant to the communities in terms of solving youth unemployment and professional issues. However, a strategic plan that involves community participation where members have to feel involved normally causes financial and time constraints (Birnbaum 2004). The Marks and Spencer Company had to endure a slackened construction pace. Therefore, they spent excess time that further increased the costs of establishing the strategic plan. In strategic planning, an efficient and workable plan should be able to follow the stipulated timeframe.
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Assignment of the Project Activities
A key concept of strategic planning that makes strategic plans deem efficient is how the project managers identify the responsible people and assign them the right responsibilities (Doole & Lowe 2008). According to Said (2009), the principles of strategic planning consider a plan efficient and successful, when the project managers can assign the activities of the project to suitable people. The project managers were highly sensitive in assigning the activities of policymaking, procurement, community mobilization, construction, project reporting, and in the execution of several other significant project duties (Gillies et al. 2013). In their development and execution plans, Marks and Spencer ensured an accurate and timely distribution of information to the involved people. Additionally, construction teams and managers remained accountable and understood the relevance of the project to the larger community. Nonetheless, the communication systems were complex, they required effective planning, and they often faced protocol challenges.
Coordination and Commitment during Construction
A primary element of a strategic plan that entails the development and implementation of an actual project is proper coordination (Beers 2007). Poor coordination of activities and poor commitment of the people in the project ideas and plans often leads to a dubious achievement. According to Tse (2010), managers should consider developing plans that consider processes as a fast-food restaurant chain, where each bit of the project process, counts on the ultimate results of the intended plan. Marks and Spencer were sure that each process of the strategic plan required perfect coordination between the people involved (Gillies et al. 2013). The project managers ensured that all the processes linked effectively and the people coordinated well. One aspect that failed the Marks and Spencer project management team was the lack of pragmatic monitoring systems (Tse 2010). Making a perfect judgment concerning project coordination at the late moments of the project is an obsolete idea.
Utilization of Technologies
An essential aspect that determines the success of a strategic plan is the proper utilization of technologies, which normally spur the efficiency of the strategic plans (Doole & Lowe 2008). In the SWOT business model, technology is normally a strong aspect that a business or a set plan uses to achieve its business or plan goals. In the PESTEL model, technological aspects normally influence an accurate achievement of the established business aims or the desired plan objectives (Velotta 2008). Marks and Spencer noticed that an accurate utilization of the modern technologies such as the social media communication platforms such as the live websites, Facebook, and Twitter accounts was a good idea to share useful information with the residents (Gillies et al. 2013). Additionally, it was significant for the project managers to blend several communication platforms to spread the project messages. Nonetheless, the use of technology seemed unsystematic throughout the processes of the project.
The Handover and Implementation
Every strategic plan must consider the essence of implementing the intended actions and ideas to achieve the ultimate goals (Nelson 2009). The Marks and Spencer team was very keen about the ultimate handover and implementation process of the plan. The handover and implementation of the Cheshire strategy seemed well planned and organized coherently. The project managers handed over the buildings and the management of the store to the ordinary local members who fitted within the suitable job positions of the Marks and Spencer organization (Gillies et al. 2013). Marks and Spencer recruited the local members as the retailers, communicated to the customers and community, and carried out a community outreach for the incoming store team. In PESTEL, Ribeiro (2011), states that a strategic plan should consider business ethics, such as the recruitment of the local members to avoid ethical dilemmas with the community members, who may feel ignored by the companies.
No organization exists without a purpose and no plan exists without an intention. A strategic plan can be a perfect business-planning tool because it communicates the intention of a bigger company through smaller plans. The Cheshire Oaks Strategic Plan is a perfect example of how bigger organizations use the available community opportunities to expand their territories. However, while setting up and implementing a strategic plan that requires the actual development of a physical project, managers ought to understand several parameters of planning and execution. The Cheshire Oaks Strategic Plan had an effective beginning, planning, procurement, construction, and handover of the physical retail stores. Despite being skilful in planning and execution, some lapses in communication, coordination, construction, technology utilization, and community mobilization revealed themselves in their Cheshire Oaks Strategic Plan. Notwithstanding the rifts, the greatest idea was that the company managed to focus on achieving the ultimate goals.
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