Strategic development is at the core of business success. But how can this be implemented to ensure leadership teams are equipped to deliver a strategic plan? We asked expert John McKee, Managing Director of Linkubator, to share his views.

In our latest Business Leaders episode, we learn all about John, his business, and what advice he has to offer. Watch our full interview below, or read on for the highlights.

John’s Work at Linkubator

Before his current role with Linkubator, a business consultancy based in Belfast, John built his career in the medical devices sector as a salesperson.

However, he now spends much of his time working on leadership and strategic development for clients.

How does John help companies? He explained that he spends the bulk of his time with clients in their own businesses.

Improve your Business with John McKee

“Normally I work with their senior management team or with middle managers within the company. How our work manifests itself is that we facilitate sessions to help them to plan where they want to go as a business.

“It is a pretty common challenge, particularly in SMEs, that the business can run the management team rather than the management team run the business.

“That daily grind of emails coming in, products to get out the doors, supplier issues and customer issues quite often can absorb all of the thinking time from the senior management team.”

Why is it so important to take time away from that day-to-day workload?

“It’s a vital responsibility for anybody in a senior role to ensure the business achieves its goals in the long-term. It isn’t just about getting product out tomorrow or making sure the lorries get filled by Friday. It’s to ensure the shareholders see the return in the business that they want from their asset.”

John McKee, Managing Director of Linkubator - strategic development
John lends his expertise to help businesses better manage their workload and their future. Image credit: Twitter

The Importance of Strategic Development

John’s work on leadership and strategic development has brought substantial benefits to businesses in a unique way.

“We work with companies to facilitate cohorts of managers to look at their own leadership capabilities, their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to leading other people.

“We help them to come up with their own action plan and things that they can try to adopt to ultimately get the best out of their people.”

With this practice, businesses can not only achieve better service output, but also better personal and professional development

“Managers who have responsibility for perhaps five or six people on their team can become so absorbed in that executive frontline that it’s easy to neglect their pastoral role to make sure that everybody on their team is achieving their best and doing their best, is motivated, is loyal and knows what they are doing and why they are doing it.”

John highlights how the current culture surrounding constant grafting can cause managers and leaders to drown out and forget what’s really important when it comes to running a business and a team.

“Whilst those might sound like fundamental questions, I think the real world sometimes pushes those questions to the back of manager’s minds. The noise in a day-to-day business can sometimes drown those questions out.”

To find out more about John, Linkubator, strategic development and leadership development watch our full video interview, or visit the official website.

Review Your Business Strategy | Business Plan | Business Strategy Model | Business Development

Strategic Planning vs. Operations: Defining the Difference

Strategic planning and operations are two crucial, yet distinct, functions within any organization. While they work together to achieve organizational goals, their focus and methods differ significantly. Understanding these differences is key to ensuring successful execution and growth.

Strategic Planning:

  • Definition: The process of defining an organization’s long-term vision, mission, and goals, and developing actionable strategies to achieve them. It involves analyzing the internal and external environment, identifying opportunities and threats, and making informed decisions about resource allocation and future direction.
  • Key elements:
    • Vision: A clear and inspiring picture of the organization’s desired future state.
    • Mission: The organization’s purpose and reason for existing.
    • Goals: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound objectives that guide strategic decisions.
    • Strategies: Actionable plans to achieve goals and overcome challenges.
    • Competitive analysis: Understanding the market landscape and competitor strengths and weaknesses.
    • Risk management: Identifying and mitigating potential threats to the organization’s success.


  • Definition: The day-to-day execution of the strategies and plans developed through strategic planning. It focuses on efficient and effective use of resources to achieve operational goals and deliver desired outputs.
  • Key elements:
    • Processes: Standardized procedures for performing tasks and activities.
    • Metrics and performance indicators: Tools to track progress towards operational goals and identify areas for improvement.
    • Resource management: Efficient allocation and utilization of personnel, equipment, and budget.
    • Quality control: Ensuring consistent delivery of products and services that meet customer expectations.
    • Continuous improvement: Ongoing efforts to optimize processes and increase operational efficiency.

Key Differences:

FeatureStrategic PlanningOperations
FocusLong-term vision and future directionShort-term execution and efficiency
TimeframeYears or decadesDays, weeks, or months
Decision-makingBased on analysis and strategic thinkingFocused on process optimization and task completion
Risk toleranceHigher risk tolerance for potential rewardsLower risk tolerance, prioritizing stability and efficiency
FlexibilityAdaptable to changing circumstancesRigid adherence to established processes


Imagine an organization as a car. Strategic planning defines the destination and the overall route. Operations ensure the car runs smoothly, maintains optimal speed, and avoids obstacles. Both are necessary for a successful journey.

Business planning statistics

A step-by-step guide for organizing the strategic planning process across leadership levels:

  1. Set clear timeline – Start planning stage minimum 6 months before 3-5 year strategic plan kicks in.
  2. Conduct SWOT analysis – Gather information through surveys, interviews on internal strengths weaknesses & external opportunities and threats from Board, executives, mid-managers.
  3. Define big picture vision/mission – Facilitate visioning session with executives establishing overarching 5 year plan goals aligned to SWOT themes and emerging industry shifts.
  4. Assign objectives/KPIs – Drill down by function i.e. marketing sets specific capability upgrade initiatives, conversion rate improvement targets. Connect to vision.
  5. Identify key enablers – Align budgets, hiring buildouts, investments, data upgrades needed across each business unit to hit designated KPIs.
  6. Review and iterate plan – Reconvene leadership after departmental strategy reviews to align on resourcing behind common goals before finalizing 3-5 year roadmap.
Connecting Strategic Planning to Leadership | Insights from John McKee, Linkubator #StrategicPlan

Statistics Quantifying the Business Benefits of Strategic Planning:

Revenue Growth:

  • Companies with documented strategic plans achieve an average of 10% higher annual revenue growth than those without. (Source: Bain & Company)
  • Organizations with strong strategic alignment between departments experience 20-25% higher revenue growth. (Source: McKinsey & Company)
  • Strategic planning initiatives can lead to a 33% increase in new customer acquisition and a 17% increase in customer retention. (Source: Aberdeen Group)

Productivity & Efficiency:

  • Companies with effective strategic planning processes see a 20% improvement in employee productivity. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • Organizations that implement strategic planning frameworks experience a 15% reduction in operational costs. (Source: Deloitte)
  • Strategic planning can lead to a 25% decrease in project turnaround times and a 30% improvement in project success rates. (Source: Project Management Institute)

Profitability & Market Share:

  • Companies that actively engage in strategic planning achieve a 26% higher average return on equity (ROE) than their competitors. (Source: Booz Allen Hamilton)
  • Businesses with strong strategic agility (ability to adapt to change) experience a 20% increase in market share over a 5-year period. (Source: Gartner)
  • Strategic planning can lead to a 15% increase in profit margins and a 10% improvement in brand awareness. (Source: Forrester Research)

Additional Benefits:

  • Reduced employee turnover and improved employee morale.
  • Enhanced risk management and crisis preparedness.
  • Increased innovation and creativity within the organization.
  • Improved decision-making and communication across all levels.

Templates and examples for key strategic planning components:

Vision Statement Example: “To democratize financial services in order to empower everyday people to take control of their economic futures.”

SWOT Analysis Template:

| Internal / External | Helpful | Harmful | | Strengths | Opportunities | Weaknesses | Threats

Competitor Analysis Framework:

  • Primary products/services offered
  • Marketing & positioning messaging
  • Sales process & pricing structure
  • Customer segments and market share
  • Competitive advantage differential

KPI Development Guide:

  • KPI = metric used to track performance
  • Define current baseline
  • Set measurable target within designated timeframe
  • Example: Increase website conversion rate from 2% to 4% by Q4 2023

Strategic Development FAQs

Still have questions? Explore common strategic planning queries below.

Q: Who should lead the strategy planning process?

A: Appoint a dedicated strategic planning director or committee to spearhead.

Q: How detailed should the strategic plan get on execution?

A: Define major milestones but leave flexibility for leaders to pivot on emerging data.

Q: When does the plan go into effect after finalizing?

A: Next fiscal year or designated kick-off milestone. Use interim for alignment.

Q: What is the biggest mistake companies make?

A: Lack of communication on the plan and accountability to defined KPIs.

Strategic Development Conclusion

With meaningful expertise contribution across the organizational hierarchy and regular progress tracking, strategic plans transform from static documents collecting dust to dynamic guides unlocking tangible enterprise growth. Prioritize the enriched context setting early on.

Equip teams to carry the vision forward. And embed consistent review rhythms to ensure strategies crystallize into reality. When thoroughly activated, even lofty 5-year strategic plans can fundamentally evolve business trajectories for the better.

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