Corporate strategic planning is intended to provide both the direction (strategy) and the actions (execution) needed to achieve strategic goals. The combination of smart strategy and successful execution is the hallmark of a great planning process.
So what does this process look like?
- It creates a hard link between planning and execution.
- It reduces risk by eliminating variability and ambiguity in language, outcomes, and process.
- It provides a customer-centered perspective.
- It facilitates bidirectional communication.
- It enforces accountability.
- It empowers executives and staff with “business truth.”
- It provides clarity and steps to achieve outcomes.
- It can be applied in any context (internally, externally / business, technical).
- It provides repeatable, predictable, measurable results.
- It enables the organization to develop plans more efficiently with precision delivery.
- It provides cost savings through a repeatable set of processes.
- It creates minimal intrusion to the organization.
Yet, in recent years we have seen executives grow increasingly skeptical of traditional strategic planning exercises. Why is this? What’s gone wrong with the strategic planning process?
Consider that many planning exercises are carried out in one of two ways: At a fevered pace to set objectives very quickly; or over a very long period of time that has constant interruptions, short meetings, and is primarily focused on current or ad hoc issues that the organization is facing. Either way, we find that management staff is usually focused on short term goals and issues with the most financially significant concerns taking the most attention.
Additionally, in traditional planning, the people who will be most affected by the organization’s plans are often unaware of what the end goals are and have been given varying levels of information to carry out their goals. There is usually a team or set of teams that have been given the “go ahead” to carry out the plans but they often fall prey to office politics, cliques, and business friendships that all impact the ultimate success of the plan and more importantly, the realization of the outcomes that the business is trying to achieve.
All of this adds up to an ineffective strategic planning process that leaves organizations and executives bewildered and wondering why their plans don’t deliver the intended results. Meanwhile, organizations that have managed to create an effective strategic planning process are able to remain focused on delivering value to customers and gaining market share, while also moving toward defined corporate objectives. It is this ability to balance strategy and execution that gives advantage to today’s most successful organizations.