Planning to StrategizeAlex, May 13, 2015, 11:42 am
In many companies, strategizing and planning end up in a big jumble that lead to disappointing results. The reason is simple: The final plan is mostly a set of activities that are based on a fixed budget and lots of impressive presentations in the way of charts and graphs. Everything looks official, but the strategic plan has little meaning in a marketplace where change is rampant. The budget quickly becomes outdated, the strategy gets shelved, and it is business as usual.
Step Outside the Budget
There are ways to step outside the budget and do real strategic planning.
Get specific – Sometimes it seems as if words like “leverage” and “drive customer demand” no longer have any meaning because of overuse. They are also imprecise and read more like a cover-up of lack of knowledge as to the actions needed to successfully implement a strategy. How precisely will leadership leverage resources? What exactly will drive demand?
Test assumptions – What assumptions were made when the strategy was developed, and how do they influence actions needed to succeed? That is just an elaborate way of saying the managers need to know what works and what does not work as far as the assumptions made. When the rubber meets the road, or the strategy is put into action, do the assumptions hold up? The only way to know that is to test them. That will help managers get comfortable with taking specific actions because they know the foundation on which the actions are built is solid.
Debate the strategy – The final strategic plan should represent the end result of a debate that included staff from across the organization. The days of hierarchal structures in which only the people at the top decided strategies behind closed doors are long gone. Encourage team members to ask tough questions about the strategy like, “What initiatives were abandoned in order to produce the strategic plan before us?” Whatever is abandoned should have been left in the dust for justifiable reasons.
Don’t Just Fill in the Blanks
Strategic planning is important, but the challenge is making sure the business really is doing strategic planning and not just filling in the blanks. Of course, the strategic plan should also reflect what is in the business plan because that is where the Mission Statement and Operating Plan reside. If the strategy and the business plan are not integrated, the business plan needs updating or the strategic plan needs revision. The one thing a strategic plan should not do is take a business off-course from its mission.
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