Three simple components for good strategic planning
A good strategic planning process is comprised of three main components. If your organisation ignores or poorly executes one of these components, it is unlikely to get positive results from its strategic plan.
There are substantial costs associated with an insufficient planning process:
- Diluted leadership in the market and a sense of falling behind;
- Failure to achieve desired financial and operational results;
- Frustration throughout the organisation and the misconception that strategic planning is a waste of time; and
- Loss of validity of the leadership team.
A sound strategic planning process includes the following three elements. If your organisation does a poor or incomplete job on any of these areas, your strategic planning process is incomplete and won’t get the results you expect:
One: Answer the “big” strategic planning questions – but without overused and irrelevant jargon. The big questions include: Who are our customers and how can we better serve them? Who are our competitors and how can we beat them? What do we do best and how can we build on that edge? How can we prepare the organisation to defend against threats and seize opportunities? What are potential scenarios that we need to consider for the future, and how will we prepare for them?
Regrettably, many organisations contest these issues with academic discussions and confusing jargon. At the same time, some organisations come up with brilliant answers to these questions, but can’t quite take them to the point of clear initiatives that get done.
The big strategic planning questions are inconsequential if they don’t result in a few clear, compelling strategic initiatives to strengthen the organisation.
Two: Set a few clear priorities and an overall strategic theme. The most important outcome of the first part of the strategic planning process is to identify the most important priorities for the organisation. Starting with a long list of potential priorities, the organisation debates the relative value of each, and pin-points only a few key priorities. This discussion can also lead to greater clarity about the big strategic planning questions, especially about what the organisation should do best.
Once a list of no more than three to five priorities is agreed upon, the organisation can come up with a strategic theme. This is a one-line statement that describes and explains the overall strategic push for the organisation.
During this phase, many organisations settle for a long list of priorities. This has the benefit that nobody feels excluded or insulted. However, it makes it highly unlikely that the organisation will get anything done in its entirety.
Three: Execution. The biggest complaint we hear about strategy is that it never seems to get executed. There are a few reasons why:
- Omitting to commit essential resources to the strategy, including capital, training, people and technology.
- Failing to take things off the laps of busy employees, and instead just loading more work on them.
- Having lack of will to stop old initiatives that compete with the new.
- Not setting clear roles, responsibilities, accountability, and appropriate rewards systems.
- Giving up after a few setbacks or initial resistance.
A sound strategy spends as much time on implementation planning as it does on the more enjoyable work of answering the key strategic questions and setting priorities.
Which of the above areas is lacking in your organisation? Some organisations are strong at asking the big picture questions, but fail to follow up. Some set too many priorities, and can’t say “no” to good ideas, despite limited resources. Others are strong at executing, but lack the vision to develop powerful strategic initiatives.
We can help. We have a proven 3-part strategic planning process that is simple for you to implement (without the requirement for a huge team of consultants), and gets results efficiently. Contact us to chat further.