How Satisfied Are You with Your Strategic Planning Process?

a business man is looking at a wall full of words related to strategy

Be honest…how satisfied are you with your organization’s strategic planning process?

Do you grit your teeth at the mere thought of that annual ritual? Do you end up, along with 2 out of 3 executives we interview, with the “same old-same old” that has been merely re-worked to be a bit more ambitious? Or do you emerge with a clear, compelling and implementable strategy to move you and the business forward?

We believe that the strategic planning process should result in a plan that is ambitious, flexible enough to account for changing market conditions and executable through specific action steps that guide management and the front line. Strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing organizations.  And we have learned over two decades of helping clients design strategies-that-work how to set up the process so you can create a workable and inspiring plan that can propel your organization toward a successful future.

Here are five critical elements of a well-conceived strategy that can be successfully implemented:

  • Include front-line managers and customers in the strategic planning process.
    Crafting strategies is usually left up to the executives. But don’t make the mistake of isolating those making the decisions from those they are attempting to serve. The further apart the executives are from the people who must execute and benefit from the strategy, the more difficult the plan will be to implement. To learn more read: 3 Big Mistakes To Avoid When Cascading Your Corporate Strategy
  • Make budgeting a separate process.
    It is all too easy to get hung up on numbers and financial targets if you combine strategic planning with budgeting. Putting together a strategy should be an exercise in prioritizing opportunities and planning for the future. There needs to be a balance. Of course, the strategy’s success will depend upon available resources, but you mustn’t drown in the math and overlook the compelling vision for growth and innovation.
  • Ensure strategic planning is ongoing rather than once-a-year.Don’t depend on the calendar to tell you when you should hold the next strategic planning session. Once-a-year is not often enough if you want to stay on top of today’s dynamic markets. Schedule regular opportunities to talk about and evaluate strategic alternatives and progress. Establish a more flexible cycle where you can review the current plan and adjust as needed in real time.
  • Have the right conversations at the right levels of the organization.
    Keep it simple. Don’t muck up the strategic planning and implementation process with conversations and decisions that can be made at a lower level. Just as it is wrong for managers to over-manage their team members, it is inefficient and ineffective for executives to have to decide operational issues that can (and should) be capably handled by staff. Reduce the bureaucracy and focus the discussions so you can keep your eyes on the prize.
  • Prioritize and allocate resources according to the future, not only the past.
    At best, incremental strategies get incremental improvements. Strategic planning should not be an incremental adjustment year after year. The slate should be swiped clean. Allocate resources to the most critical future growth opportunities. In the end, this is in the entire organization’s best interest.

Do your best to establish a world-class strategic planning process and you will do your part to realize a world-class organization.

To learn more, read Should You Facilitate Your Own Strategy Retreat? 3 Guidelines to Help You Decide

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