What is Your Strategic Planning Process?

strategic planning process

A Smart Strategic Planning Process Provides the Foundation
No matter how simple the business, every effective operation is based upon some kind of revenue-generating plan. Strategic planning is, quite simply, the foundation of any successful business. In fact, our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity and a solid strategic planning process accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing organizations.

Can you articulate the strategic planning process you use to prioritize your investments and resources? Are you convinced it is getting the results you need?

There is No “Right Way”
There are various ways to go about strategic planning. Some work better than others, but the process you use to agree upon your strategic priorities and action plans can have far-reaching and unanticipated consequences.

There is no “right” way. The “best” way for your organization will depend on the business you are in, the size of your company, your corporate culture, the level of employee engagement, and even the need of your business to adapt to rapid changes in the marketplace. It will be up to you.

Four Different Strategic Planning Process Approaches to Consider
Which would serve the needs of your organization more effectively…or should you try a hybrid solution?

1.  Top-down Strategy
In this approach, the business leader makes the strategic decisions and announces them to the organization. There is little-to-no input or active involvement from others. People know that if they disagree or do not fall in line, their careers could be in jeopardy.

With top-down strategies, the leader considers strategic planning and decision making to be their responsibility alone.

  • The Advantage – Speed.  Decisions can be made swiftly – especially in times of crisis.
  • The Disadvantage –
    Not a shared vision.  The people required to implement the decisions and plans may not understand them, believe in them or be able to execute them effectively.

2.  As Needed Strategy
With this approach, the planning is reactive and goes into effect when there is a stated need. The leader pulls together a planning team and the strategic planning process begins. The team may not be the same each time and the actual process may differ as well.

  • The Advantage – Flexibility. The team and the process are defined by the immediate decisions that need to be made. And there is a strong bias toward action.
  • The Disadvantage – It is difficult to truly be strategic.  Having a “fast-follow” or reactionary strategic planning process can make it difficult to plan long-term, anticipate needs and manage resources effectively.

3.  Traditional Strategy
Traditional strategic planning answers the questions: “Where are we now?”  “Where do we want to go?”  and “How will we get there?”  The process helps to clarify the current status, the desired goals and the best path to make it happen.  A traditional strategy can take the form of any of the other three approaches depending upon the situation at hand.

  • The Advantage – Done right, traditional strategic planning helps executive teams to get on the same page, prioritize goals, and create an action plan for success.
  • The Disadvantage – Done wrong, the traditional strategic planning process can create a thick binder of data, research, plans, metrics and actions that no one is really going to use, cascade or follow to move the business forward.

4.  Broad Net
A fourth approach involves casting a wide net to solicit input from employees and other stakeholders such as customers and suppliers. The focus is on engaging all parties to be sure no relevant information is overlooked and that all key stakeholders feel part of creating a collective strategy that works for everyone.

  • The Advantage – Buy-in. Because all ideas and opinions are welcomed and considered, there is greater alignment between the corporate strategy, the workplace culture and people’s personal goals and desires. This makes it easier to cascade and hold people accountable.
  • The Disadvantage – Speed.  When you cast a broad net, you must go slowly to eventually go fast.  It takes time and energy to think through all the perspectives and make sure all participants are actively involved.

The Bottom Line
Can you identify with any of these strategic planning approaches? If so, does your current strategic planning process need changing to more accurately reflect the needs of your business?

To learn more about creating strategic clarity for your teams, download Is Your Business Strategy Clear Enough?

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