Why Strategic Planning?

 In my more than 35 years of being involved in strategic planning, I have been a participant, end-user, and facilitator.  Here’s what I’ve learned.

The strategic planning process should:

  • Define the client’s desired outcomes
  • Be customized to the specific needs of the client.  These needs include the appropriate elements applied at the appropriate time, the time necessary to complete the process, and the best way for successful implementation.
  • Affirm the results of the process along the way continue to meet the client’s needs and expectations
  • Include participants who can contribute insights that normally are lost in day-to-day operations
  • Create an environment of active engagement and contribution from all attendees
  • Create a document that serves as an active component in the organization’s day-to-day operations
  • Provide a way to implement, adjust, and redefine the plan along its implementation
  • Demonstrate measurable results for the effort

The following describes the approach that I have found works best with organizations with whom I have served as facilitator in producing effective strategic plans.  For more information, please contact me.

What is Strategic Planning? 

1. Strategic planning is:
  • What you, as an organization, want to do and have happen
  • The defining of a continuous process (a “what”) from a point in time
  • A “big picture” process from which all other processes flow
  • A process that ensures the reinvention and renewal of an organization
  • Best achieved when involving a broad range of people
  • Constantly monitored, evaluated, and revised
  • Your legacy and stewardship plan for this and future generations
  • A process that becomes more difficult the farther you go in it
2. Strategic planning is not:
  • Historically oriented
  • A destination or an end in itself
  • Always correct in its assumptions or vision
  • Completed by a single person or by an outside consultant
  • Something to be completed to meet a requirement
 3. Definition of Strategic Planning
  1. A description of a preferred future and how best to achieve it.
  2. The foundation on which the organization will build that future.
  3. The detailed steps and resources required to achieve that future.
  4. The monitoring of the ever-changing environment to ensure that the preferred future is still the goal; the foundation and framework are moving the organization in that direction.

An Overview of Strategic Planning

Geoffrey L. Davis, pcc

Strategic Planning Components

  1. Vision – describes the preferred future of the organization and what it sees in that future, even if it seems out of reach.  It assumes all resources are available to achieve that future.
  2. Mission – a specific, future-oriented statement of the organization’s purpose and function that draws on belief statements, is consistent with vision and allows focus on one common purpose.
  3. Beliefs – a statement of the organization’s ethical code of conduct, its ethical posture, its values, its character.  Beliefs are a declaration of universal human values that the people would hold no matter where they were or under what conditions they found themselves.
  4. Scenario Planning – a tool for helping organizations take a long view of possible futures.
  5. Goals – broad and general qualitative standards of performance that flow from the mission statement. General ways to achieve the mission.
  6. Objectives – more specific, measurable ways to achieve goals that communicate priorities. 
  7. Strategic Direction – a statement that provides the organization with what it believes and intends to do around key goals and objectives.
  8. Strategies – broad, general statements/approaches of how to achieve objectives and goals.  An integrated, planned effort to achieve advantageous conditions. The major plans for achieving major goals over the long term. Outlines the routes we will take to get to our destination.
  9. Action Plans – a brief outline of the key steps or actions which must be taken to implement a strategy or strategic program.  Defines specific actions to achieve specific results. Spells out the vehicles and daily itineraries that will help us reach our destination.

10 Ways to Improve Plan Implementation 

  1. Clearly establish the strategy, manage the plan, influence behaviors and perceptions.  Focusing on all three areas yields a higher likelihood of success.
  2. Treat the implementation of the plan as a high priority project.  Drive it from the top, with senior leadership (the CEO would be a great choice) serving as project manager for the plan’s implementation. 
  3. Create the dimensions of empowerment.  Stephen Covey identifies these critical dimensions as trustworthiness (character and competence), trust, win-win stewardship agreements, self-directing individuals and teams, aligned structures and systems, and accountability.  Focusing on these creates the kind of environment where the plan may flourish.
  4. Make the plan part of day-to-day operations.  From your meeting agendas to your correspondence to your organizational chart, see how you can drive the plan into every aspect of your company’s DNA.
  5. Focus on a small number of achievable goals that are the key decisions to work on.  The death of many implementation attempts is too many action plans that are working at cross-purposes and/or eating up your resources.
  6. Turn the goals into actions.  From the boardroom to the boiler room, if every person in the organization doesn’t see the attainment of strategic goals as part of their daily activities, nothing will happen.
  7. Monitor for undermining behaviors.  In her book, The Change Monster, Jeanie Duck identifies three elements critical to any change initiative in an organization – strategy, management, and behaviors.  She notes that behaviors are the things we overlook, yet they’re the heart of sinking even the best, most logical attempts at organizational change.  I also believe that perceptions are part of the formula.  In the absence of information, people will generate perceptions about all this work that will quickly become the organizational reality.
  8. Frequently and regularly evaluate the results of the actions and the continued appropriateness of the plan.  Many times, the assumptions, data, or environment in which the plan was developed changes.  If you only look at the plan once a year, your likelihood for being able to quickly respond to the volatility and uncertainty of your industry greatly diminishes.
  9. Adjust and fine-tune the plan as the result of your review.  Nothing about a strategic plan is carved in stone.  Your ability to be agile and “proactively responsive” to your business positioning and strategy will justify your investment.  Evaluate if the plan has achieved the desired results or what must be done to do so.
  10. Celebrate successes, milestones, and significant achievements.  You and your staff need to know when you’ve scored and what the score is in the game. 

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