Benefits and Risks of Strategic Plans:
How often have you wondered why your Strategic Plan does not seem to be working?
You might be experiencing slower progress than you expected, or in some areas, you might be experiencing complete inactivity. Undoubtedly, planning and implementing strategy can at times be quite frustrating, where obstacles seem to constantly get in the way of success.
Over my years as a strategy consultant, dealing with privately held small businesses to large multinational corporations, I have been exposed to a variety of situations. As a result, I have come to realize the value of some guiding principles Chief Executives, Chief Strategy Officers, and Business Development Managers could benefit from when planning and implementing their strategic plans.
Success of any strategic plan ultimately depends on the Chief Executive’s commitment and leadership, as well as the skill and quality of the management team responsible for implementation. With this in mind, here are some guidelines that should help your company profit from its strategic plan.
- Be prepared to deal with resistance to change. On average, one third of the organization will embrace change, one third will resist change and one third will be unsure of their position. Identify the “fearless” employees that have embraced the strategic plan. Acknowledge these leaders and allow them room to succeed. At the same time, encourage those that are unsure to get involved, ask questions and help them find reasons to support the plan.
- Make your people responsible and accountable. Compensate employees based on performance. Make clear that there are both positive and negative consequences depending on achieving of specific and plainly stated goals. This will help to ensure that your employees understand the importance you place on the success of the strategic plan.
- Focus on strategic issues and opportunities. Don’t get bogged down with volumes of data and details. Spend more time on strategic thinking. Gather only relevant information to support business decisions.
- Leveraging strengths. Don’t try to change the organization into something it is not. Conglomerates are dinosaurs. Companies need to focus on, and leverage, competitive advantages.
- Move the process along at a reasonably quick pace to create momentum and enthusiasm. Schedule progress meetings on a regular basis. Make strategic planning a priority and keep everyone interested and committed. Your people will become energized by their contribution to the process. Don’t let their day-to-day activities prevent them from making progress on assigned strategic projects.
- The implementation plan is a living document. Be flexible. The implementation plan is not static; rather it is a “work in progress.” Be prepared to make changes, and move quickly on new opportunities.
- Vision is nothing without action. Drive action with a specific implementation plan. Too often a strategic plan ends up on a dusty shelf. Make it happen right away. Develop a detailed action plan and hold managers accountable for its implementation.
- Consider retaining a qualified outside resource to help facilitate the process. As companies grow, the need for broader experience becomes greater. An outside resource can provide credibility and invite creativity.
- Talk about and challenge the strategic plan often and with as many qualified people as possible. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your strategy is perfect. Use your network of respected business associates to question and challenge your strategic plan. Don’t hesitate to ask others to help you make the strategy better.
- Be sure everyone in your organization understands what you are doing. Make your employees feel they are a part of the process and the success. Don’t let rumors derail the efforts you are making. Keep your employees informed of your progress and invite comments and questions. Give your employees reasons to believe that the strategic plan will be beneficial to everyone.
Without question, strategic planning is an essential part of every successful company. It provides the roadmap for profitable growth. Success ultimately depends upon senior management’s ability to provide the kind of leadership to develop a well thought out, fact based strategy, and to gain the support of the organization, creating a sense of ownership and commitment that will ensure its success.
You can take the horse to water, but can’t make the horse drink it.
What’s the option?
How does the planning process speed up the process of planning change, especially in looking at long-term outcomes?
It asks three simple questions you may have heard before:
- What is working that we don’t need to change?
- What do we do more of/ instead of the problem?
- What do we need to do to see immediate progress?
This approach engages many stakeholder perspectives in assessing:
- What’s working (that we don’t want to change)? There’s always more than we realize.
Benefit: Moves people from hopeless to hopeful
- What needs to be different/better? We clarify the problem, but do not make it central to the solution.
Benefit: It’s easier to see what we will stop doing.
- What will it look like when the problem is no longer present? When asked this way, people discover what they have in common.
Benefit: build a plan that leverages input and insight of all parties.
- What would we see ourselves doing to initiate the change?
Benefit: The change can begin at the start of the planning.
Engage the horse in getting it to the water it will drink.
But, what if the people engaged are wrong about what needs to be done?
They may be wrong, but no more so than the planning experts. If they own it, they will make it work flaws and all. If they don’t own it, they will take more time to engage.
But, what if the staff (and others) are resistant to any change?
Start by asking them (and their customers) what’s working and what needs to be better. Watch the change start happening. It may have to slow down a bit if they are deeply entrenched.
Key Ingredient: early cross-stakeholder alignment (everyone is a stakeholder) and the above solution focused better questions. When everyone is aligned around the new desired outcomes, the plan falls in place more naturally.
It is a co-creation planning process.
When should Strategic Planning be undertaken?
When an organization is just getting started
- In preparation for a new major venture – developing a new department, division, or line of products
- At least once a year in order to be ready for the coming fiscal year (not all phases of strategic planning need be completed each year)
- Every 3 years the full strategic planning process should be conducted at least once
- Action plans should be updated annually.
Lead your business in a solid direction – we will work closely with you to determine your objectives, analyze your company, evaluate the market, and formulate and implement the strategy.