Thinking Ahead: The Strategic Planning Process

Thinking Ahead: The Strategic Planning Process

January 29, 2014
Career Development

Renata Cuevas
Nutrition Intern from St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN

We’ve all heard the term, but what does “strategic planning” really mean? Today, we are seeing more and more companies trying to achieve higher levels of organization to turn their vision into goals, and then turn those goals into reality.  An effective strategic planning process can benefit retail dietitians in developing overall health and wellness programs at their retailer; increasing the company’s health brand in the community; and expanding their teams to meet the needs of shoppers in key markets.   

However, how are visions made into goals? As a retail dietitian, how do you cast a vision that in turn mobilizes action? The solution may lie in focusing energy on an actionable strategic plan.

Establish Goals. The first step in this process is establishing long- and short-term goals. What is it that you are trying to achieve in health and wellness programming at your retailer, and what are the milestones you hope to accomplish to ultimately get there? Your framework should be one that will positively impact the business of retail as well as the health of shoppers, and writing goals that align with both is essential for the success of your strategic plan.  

Manage Your Resources. Second, managing your resources by allocating them in a way that will steer your goal in the right direction is essential. If you have a team of dietitians, ask yourself if its framework will yield the intended result. Examine how you can most effectively leverage their time and talents to accomplish both the short- and long-term goals you’ve set.  Maximizing partnerships with your merchandising, marketing and communications teams and applying your nutrition expertise to their worlds is an effective way to expand your scope of influence and leverage other resources to meet your strategic plan.  Getting their buy-in to your plan is equally important to its success.

Focus on Milestones. Striving to meet “often forgotten” short-term goals is equally as important as that “far-away” long-term goal. At the same time, prevent yourself from focusing too much time and attention on putting out “burning fires” as this may inhibit you from meeting the long term objectives.  Established milestones are necessary as checkpoints, and provide the opportunity for course corrections in your overall plan.  Additionally, achievement of milestones provides an opportunity for you to communicate successes of health and wellness programs and your efforts to your manager as well as senior leadership of your retail company.

There are many frameworks and methodologies to strategic planning, but no one rule. The career of retail dietitians is a unique one in the business world, and there isn’t obvious one clear path to success. However, establishing your goals, and familiarizing yourself with similar patterns will help take your where you want to go. Overall, identifying your team, tasks, short and long-term goals, allocating resources, and orienting your goal to external factors such as consumer needs, is a great place to start.