Common Strategic Planning Missteps Part II


Keeping the Plan a Secret

Gaining buy-in and understanding of your business strategy requires effective communication of the basic tenets of the plan at all levels of the organization.  Generally, this should be done on a continuous basis with, of course, consistency of message.  Many leaders underestimate the degree and frequency of that this activity requires to be effective.  What is being left on the table is the understanding of each individual of the organization and the benefit that the organization can derive from the alignment of  their activities to the plan's direction.  Recognize that plans unfold at all levels of the organization... in both a direct and indirect manner. 

Not Allowing Sufficient Time

Long term planning is not a short cycle activity.  Sufficient  time must be allocated to the task in order to get a quality plan in place.  Retreats are popular in working through the process, but on occasion the time constraints that the retreat format imposes can hurry the process and reduce the quality of the plan.  In short, ensure that you have provided an adequate amount of uninterrupted time to the process and leave open the option for another session or sessions should they be needed to complete the plan properly.

Deciding What Not to Do

All too frequently  organizations have "eyes bigger than their stomachs" when it comes to projects and objectives...  the willingness to take on too many markets, too many products, too many initiatives.  I have seen it too often and been guilty of it myself.  Somehow, letting an opportunity be moved to the back burner is just not in some leaders DNA.  The result, of course, is that the organization is overburdened with too many programs or projects and suffer under this load... leading to missed dates, milestones and hampering results.  Having a process to assess the level of capacity that the organization has available in order to execute can help improve the probability of completing initiatives that will drive results.  Less can be more.

Leadership and Accountability

Before, during and after the planning process, leadership must be actively engaged with the organization to ensure clear accountability and ownership of key elements of the plan.  Leadership must ensure that each functional area understands what they are accountable for ... their part in the overall execution of the long term direction of the enterprise and hold them accountable for results.

Leadership must make certain that the organization does not lose sight of the long term despite the day to day pressures that they inevitably face.  Holding themselves as well as the organization accountable for their portion of the plan is a critical factor in the overall success of the plan.

Execute/Measure/ Implement

Converting strategy to action requires a repeatable, continuous management process that monitors and measures progress.  Plan completion should prompt a "first step" in this process by determining the forum or process that the company will use to create, implement and measure action steps.  If this process has already been established in prior years, then your company is ahead of the game.

Establishing and maintaining  a standardized process of measuring and reporting progress on those key activities that are central the long term plan ensures that the most critical links between strategy and action plans have been identified, assigned ownership and are provided a vehicle to monitor progress and maintain visibility.