Leadership Purpose-Vision-Culture Strategic Planning

I’ve previously written a series of articles on elements and keys to success in strategic planning, but mingling with the real world out there, I am finding that I need to back further out to discuss what exactly is a strategic plan. Why you ask?

We continuously come across organizations that believe they have a strategic plan in place or are reaching out for a new plan, but their idea of a plan and ours are very different indeed. These organizations refer to their plan as the creation of statements of purpose and vision accompanied with a supporting set of long-term goals. Our view is that they don’t have a plan, they have a set of good ideas or more simply, a wish list.

Wikipedia cites the following re. strategic planning: “Strategy has many definitions, but generally involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions.”

What we see most often is that the “mobilizing resources to execute” is missing from the majority of what is referred to as strategic planning out there. Mobilizing involves defining what actions must be completed to achieve the goals/targets/objectives, who is going to be responsible to be sure they are done and the date each action should be completed. And then, mobilizing involves being sure that you execute.

strategic plans require actionWhen we ask prospective clients what their past experience has been with planning, they often describe planning sessions as an invigorating day of putting ideas and goals up on the wall, and then…nothing happens. No mobilization. They describe it as feeling pretty good at the time, but ultimately not making a real, impactful difference in the organization. Hence, they lose faith in planning as adding value. In our view, if you don’t put the tools in place to ensure that you execute the plan, then they are correct, the plan is of little or no value.

It is also our view that the strategic planning effort must lead to an improved execution rate on strategic outcomes or tasks designed to make measurable progress on the goals you set. Here is where the real challenge lies. We all are victims of what a former client described as the “tyranny of our in box”. The day-to-day running of the organization eats all of our time and then some. So, how are we to find time for creating something new, implementing a new strategy or improving how we operate that in turn improves performance?

The only road to that end my friends is accountability and personal discipline. Accountability meaning that whomever is managing the overall strategic plan or your project must hold your feet to the fire. If you fall behind, there needs to be an assessment as to whether the task gets re-assigned or you are given help. Personal discipline means that each person responsible for outcomes on the strategic plan needs to carve out time to work on them and to hold that time just as sacred as they do meetings, vacations and the like. If you put “strategic project working time” on your calendar and you honor it, you will get your outcomes accomplished. Instilling the discipline and personal planning ability needed to get there is key to success.

So, the question for those of you out there employing a strategic plan now or thinking about how to go about it, “Is your plan executable?” If not, then our view is that you don’t really have a plan, you have an intended destination at best.

Questions or comments, email me with your thoughts.